America's oldest cities offer more than just a history lesson. Some are still small towns compared to other areas. Others have grown into thriving world focal points. But all of them represent the enduring spirit of this country. Whether you are looking for a home with history or a vacation spot with a story to tell, here are seven of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the United States.
St. Augustine, FL
Founded in 1556, St. Augustine is the longest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. A treasure trove for history buffs, the city boasts numerous historical landmarks and 43 miles of beaches. With a population of 12,000 people, it is a quaint town full of history and fun.
According to the U.S. census, the median age in St. Augustine is 41.5 years. The average income is $42,956. The average home price is $342,545 and the cost of living index is 97.5 (out of a national average of 100). The biggest industry is tourism, with construction coming in second.
Santa Fe, NM
The name Santa Fe means "holy faith" in Spanish. It was founded between 1607 and 1610 and is the oldest American capital. It is immersed in Native American culture surrounded by Pueblo lands (Native American territories). The city also reflects ancient Mexican and Spanish occupation. (Interested in profiting from the housing market bottom? Check out 10 Cities Experiencing Home Price Rebounds.)
Santa Fe is located at 7,000 ft above sea level in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and offers numerous hiking and biking trails, golf and other outdoor activities. The high desert climate draws more than one million visitors per year. Santa Fe is taking steps to preserve not only its historic places, but also the environment, with detailed sustainability initiatives.
The metropolitan area has a population of 88,500 and has continuously grown since 2000. The median price for a home is $355,688 and the median annual income is $48,156. The city's unemployment rate is below the national average. Santa Fe has a large concentration of artists and is home to the third-largest art market in the country.
There's no proof the Pilgrim's Mayflower schooner actually landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, but the rock, and the legend, still exist today. The town that officially began in 1620 was incorporated into what would become the Boston Colony. Hearty Pilgrims from England celebrated the first Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth.
The town survived and today has a population of about 58,681 and growing. Plymouth could be considered a distant suburb of Boston, which is only 40 miles away. The port still exists, but tourism is the biggest industry. Healthcare, research and real estate are also prominent. In 2010 the city will welcome a new film and television company, Plymouth Rock Studios.
Like other historic places there are plenty of museums, re-enactments and historic replicas. A typical New England sea town, temperatures range from 16 degrees to 82 degrees. The median income is $54,677.
Founded in 1610, Hampton is the oldest English-speaking settlement. The first aviation research center, the Virginia Air and Space Center, was the first training ground for U.S. astronauts and is located in Hampton. Hampton is the birthplace of the first African to be born in America. It had the first public education system. The town began the first teaching of African-Americans and today the historically black Hampton University is a well-respected institution.
The city began a major revitalization program in the 1990s. With a population of 145,000 people, it is located on a plateau and covers 53 square miles. The climate is mild with temperatures ranging between 39 and 78 degrees. Hampton's major industries include government, aerospace, medical and telecommunications. The median income is $46,110. Hampton is slightly above the national average in terms of the cost of living. The current unemployment rate is 7.3%.
Dutch explorer Henry Hudson is credited with exploring the river that bears his name in 1609. Based on his discovery, the Dutch sent settlers who found Albany in 1614, which later became the capital of New York. The city has a rich history of manufacturing and commerce including the birthplace of toilet paper and the Ferris wheel. Today state and local government is one of the biggest industries along with education, healthcare and high technology.
Albany's perch on the Hudson River attracts many visitors to numerous cultural attractions. The 1889 capital building itself is a sightseeing destination. It is an example of historic government spending costing $25 million and taking more than 25 years to complete. Albany's diverse population of 93,963 reflects the city's immigrant history. The median home value is $93,300.
New York, NY
New Amsterdam was part of a Dutch colony that began in 1624. The English named it "New York" in 1664. The history of the city is renowned throughout the world and has long been one of the most recognizable locations on earth. New York's ethnically diverse population hovers around 8.2 million people and continues to grow as the tide of immigrants has yet to cease. The median value of homes is $211,900.
The city continuously reinvented itself while maintaining historic leadership in finance, commerce, education, art and culture. New York City is much more than skyscrapers and 722 miles of subway tracks. Pride-filled citizens often laud the rich heritage of the many neighborhoods which make up its five boroughs.
Jersey City, NJ
Jersey City was founded in 1660. The Hudson River offered opportunities for commerce and finance including inventing and manufacturing the yellow pencil still commonly used today. Today the diverse culture of the area reflects its history with the slave trade and the struggle of slaves to escape from bondage.
The present population is about 240,055. The median income is $46,814. The median home value is $125,000. The city's biggest industries include: education, healthcare, social services and retail. (Moving to one of these financial hot-spot destinations could set your career in motion. Check out Top 10 Cities For A Career In Finance.)
What most old cities have in common is a vibrant tourism industry. In fact, the original English settlement, Jamestown, Virginia no longer exists as a working town. The remains of the fort and town are an historic preservation site. Visitors of old cities explore the artifacts of America's past, but the current population mixes modern living with the old world charm of our first cities to keep them vibrant and healthy.