Compared to other countries around the world, The United States is relatively young. Though 250 years is a long time, many nations have existed and persisted for thousands of years, leaving behind landmarks such as the great pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon in Greece. That said, The United States has its fair share of old structures too like The Cliff Palace that rests in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, which was built by the Anasazi around the 1200’s.
It’s rare that structures from so long ago are so well preserved, so we’re lucky to have them. Many structures that were built during colonization survive by the mere fact that they were built 350 years ago instead of 1000. Of course, given the rapid rate of progress and industrialization in the last century, it is still impressive that buildings older than the US still stand, and many of them are right here in New York City.
– The Wyckoff House: Built in 1652 this is not just the oldest house in NYC, but the oldest building as well. Formerly a farmhouse, decedents of the Wyckoff family pulled their funds together to purchase their family home in 1937. From there, they created the Wyckoff Museum, showcasing original items and artifacts from the structure’s days as a farmhouse. It was the first building in NYC to be designated a historic landmark. If you’d like a tour, take a trip to East Flatbush for a blast from the past.
– Queens County Farm Museum: This historic building was built in Floral Park Queens in 1697 and has been a running farm ever since. In fact, it is New York’s oldest running farm, supplying food to New Yorkers while giving historical and agricultural tours. It’s hard to imagine 47 acres of farmland in NYC, but that just shows how important this farm is to the community.
– Britton Cottage: You’ll find that many old structures in NYC will literally be picked up and moved to avoid destruction or inconvenience. One such structure is the Britton Cottage, built in 1670 and moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965. Once owned by the founders of the New York Botanical Garden, Dr. Nathanial Britton, this building is a jack of all trades being used as a home, a courthouse, and even a meeting place for the Presbyterian Society. Currently, it’s waiting to be restored, but should be open to the public once it’s finished.
– Old Quaker Meeting House: Built in 1694, this structure is considered the oldest church in New York, though it’s not technically a church. Quaker officials would meet in this building to discuss everything from religious freedom to the abolition of slavery. Many of the nation’s leaders have congregated here, including George Washington. More impressive, it’s still used as a meeting house for Quakers today.
– Van Cortlandt House: Formerly the home to the Van Cortlandt’s, one of New York’s wealthiest families, this home was built in 1748 and played an important role in the American Revolution, hiding important city documents after the British took control of Manhattan. In addition to being a war time game changer, the house was also a farm, a brewery, and a timber mill. Currently, it’s a museum, so get on up to the Bronx and see it for yourself!
– The Morris-Jumel Mansion: If you’re a fan of our Haunted New York series, then you’re already well acquainted with this mansion. Manhattan’s oldest home, built in 1765, this home was used as a strategic outpost for both the US and the British, due to its position on a hill. It was also home to former Vice President and duelist, Aaron Burr, but only during his short-term marriage to Eliza Jumel. The home is, you guessed it, a museum! But this one has ghost stories attached to it, so that’s a spooky twist we can all enjoy.
– Flatiron Building: You probably didn’t expect this on the list considering it was built between 1901 and 1902. However, I decided to include it because it’s NYC’s oldest standing skyscraper, which is an impressive feat. The first skyscraper was built in 1889, but that has since been demolished. Since then, the Flatiron build has taken the crown as the oldest and boldest. It’s still a young building compared to the rest of the list, but you can’t have a Historic New York Building list without talking about skyscrapers.
– Dyckman Farmhouse: See why I added a skyscraper? So many old farmhouses exist in New York! Build in 1784, this house was built to replace a house that had been destroyed during the revolution. Largely left abandoned after the 1800’s, this home was restored as close as it could be to its original state. Located on 204th street, this historic farmhouse is now a museum and venue for special entertainment and educational events.
– Hamilton Grange: Remember when I said old, historic homes get moved around a lot? Well, the former home of Alexander Hamilton, built in 1802, fits that mold perfectly. In fact, it was moved three separate times before finally finding its permanent home in Hamilton Height’s Grange Park on 135th street. This historic home contains a ton of memorabilia from the founding fathers and is open to the public.
– St. Paul’s Chapel: Built in 1766, this is the oldest church in Manhattan. It was known as the “Holy Ground” both because it was a church and a place where sex workers attracted customers. One of the only places in the city to see Georgian ecclesiastical architecture, this church has pews dedicated to some of its most famous visitors, George Washington and Bill Clinton.
These are just some of the historic homes and buildings you can find in NYC. Although they might not be the oldest structures on earth, they are a fascinating look at our collective history as New Yorkers and Americans. Through preservation and restoration, they will stand the test of time so that they may teach future generations how their ancestors lived.