Nature’s creations are without question capable of reaching awe-inspiring levels of beauty and elegance. Sites like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and the geysers of Yellowstone are truly breathtaking examples of the creative abilities of naturally existing forces on the planet we call home. While it is hard to compare the abilities of humans to alter their environment to naturally occurring forces, when you step back and look at how small and short our lives are, relatively speaking, what we have accomplished is a thing of beauty.
Growing as you move forward is a necessity to maintain relevance. Though looking to and preparing for the future is necessary, the past can give us insight into key focus areas for progression moving forward. In other words, seeing what, how and why things worked in the past to help mold a better future can be helpful to continue growing. I always recommend visiting and learning from ‘naturally created monuments’ that have stood the test of time, but looking to ‘manmade’ structures can offer helpful insight on a much more attainable scale as well. People in the past often mimicked what they observed in nature to guide and shape their creations. With the continuously increasing rate of urbanization occurring worldwide, due to population growth, we have less and less space to interact with and learn from different natural occurring phenomena. With this in mind, looking to the creations of man from a much earlier time can be a good source of inspiration moving forward, as the availability of “undisturbed” land decreases.
Even if you are not looking for the inspiration to create something new or improve upon something in existence already, at the very least, the stories, ideals and overall history tied to manmade structures that have managed to remain throughout time can be entertaining to say the least. While the officially “recognized” history of the USA might not go far back as other nations, it is a tale of a group of people facing some of the worst odds imaginable and prevailing. Through perseverance, ingenuity and dedication the people of the USA managed to accomplish many great things. The structures that remain standing are a testament to our ability to overcome obstacles, regardless of the size or level of difficulty, by coming together and working as one.
For those that are looking to experience and learn from human history first hand, I have put together a list of some of the oldest standing buildings in the USA as potential additions to your itinerary as you make travel plans. Whether you are looking for inspiration or an experience different from one that you would get at typical vacation spot, these structures have a lot to say to those willing to listen.
Taos Pueblo (Taos, New Mexico)
Though it may not have been the most prideworthy of events in American history, removing indigenous people from their homes to continue growth as a nation helped shape the USA as we know it today. Even though ‘Native Americans’ may see it as completely negative, the actions taken by early settlers in regards to Native Americans had an impact on not only territorial borders, but fighting tactics learned in battle with the Natives that helped to win our independence from other, developed nations, that sought to keep the land as an extension of the kingdom they already had. At over 1,000 years old, the Pueblo is still home to around 150 descendants of the original occupants of the land. Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States and considered a “World Heritage Site” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Palace of the Governors (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Serving as the seat to the New Mexico government, the Palace of the Governors is the oldest continuously working public building in the United States. With construction starting on the Palace of the Governors in either 1610 or 1618 (it is unclear as research has led to new discoveries), it has existed during some of the most monumental events in US history. Another ‘adobe’ structure (a mix of earth, water and straw like the Taos Pueblo), the Palace of the Governors has transitioned from a meeting place for those upholding the ideals of a democratic society, to the state’s history museum. As an official ‘Registered National Historic Landmark’ since 1960 and ‘American Treasure’ since 1999, the Palace of the Governors is a great stop to add to your upcoming vacation.
Paul Revere House (Boston, Massachusetts)
As is obvious from the title, this structure housed one of the founders of America during the American Revolution, Paul Revere. Famous for warning colonists of approaching British forces by riding through town shouting about their fashion choices, Paul Revere played an essential roll in the birth and growth of the United States of America. Built in 1680, the Paul Revere House, as the name suggests, was Paul Revere’s home during the American Revolution. It is the oldest building in downtown Boston and officially considered a National Landmark in addition to being converted into a non-profit museum.
Proprietary House (Perth Amboy, New Jersey)
Originally constructed in 1762 to house the Proprietary Governor of the Proprietary Colony that called the surrounding land home, the Proprietary House is the last remaining structure of its kind from the 13 original colonies. Due to a fire at the end of the 18th century, the mansion required renovation to remain intact, but still holds the historical value it did previously as a reminder of what could have been in the absence of those willing to stand and fight for what they believe in.
Farmar Mill (Fort Washington, Pennslyvania)
Built in 1690, Farmar Mill is the old surviving mill of its kind in the state. Now part of a museum and historic site in the area, this water-powered mill is not only a testament to the quality of construction our forefathers were capable of, but a type of renewable resource that if seriously researched and supported could help avoid future climate and/or economic crises.
Presidio La Bahia (Goliad, Texas)
While British settlers started in the northeastern area of what we know to be the USA today, the Spanish set their sights on the south (Florida), southwestern and Pacific coastal areas. Included in the areas of Spanish presence as America was being “discovered” was part of what is known as Texas today. Built with the materials that it continues to stand from today, the Presidio La Bahia has remained intact as is since 1747. In addition to serving as a stronghold for the Spanish Army, the Presidio La Bahia was used in the Texas Revolution after being taken from the Mexican garrison by a group of Texan insurgents and renamed Fort Defiance.
Wren Building (Williamsburg, Virginia)
Constructed of red brick in a ‘Flemish Bond’ style, the Wren Building is the oldest school building in the United States. As part of the College of William and Mary the first construction began on this building in 1695 and was completed in 1700. Like many other historic US structures, fire has caused the need to rebuild parts of the Wren Building on more than one occasion. Over time, additions have been made to accommodate the needs of the college, but the original structure still exists. The plans and incomplete construction remnants can still be seen in laid foundations that never became a reality due to the war associated with the birth of our nation.
White Horse Tavern (Newport, Rhode Island)
Established before 1673, the White Horse Tavern held many roles before the operation it is named for. Serving as a ‘Rhode Island General Assembly’ meeting place, a court house and a city hall the White Horse Tavern has worn many faces throughout history. In 1687, William Mayes Sr obtained a tavern license for the establishment and let his son, a junior of the same name and well-known pirate, operate it. During the American Revolution British troops setup quarters in the former tavern during the ‘Battle of Rhode Island’. Today, after some restoration, this historical building that holds the title of the ‘oldest tavern building in the US’ is once again a popular drinking and dining location for visitors from all over.
“I know of no time in human history where ignorance was better than knowledge.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson