Well more than two centuries after the thirteen original American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, Colonial America is still alive and kicking. From New England to the South, there are a surprising number of towns along the Eastern Seaboard where visitors can get a glimpse into that near-legendary time when America was still a work-in-progress. Historic districts of major cities aside, here are some of the best surviving colonial towns and neighborhoods in America:
Portsmouth, NH (founded 1630)
Strawbery Banke was one of the first settlements in America north of Massachusetts. It enjoyed an interesting if minor role in the history of the colonies. In the 17th century it was a haven for those fleeing religious persecution in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Later renamed Portsmouth, it witnessed the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1713 and the ride of Paul Revere in 1774. It was also the site of one of the earliest abolitionist events in America when a group of slaves petitioned for their freedom in 1779.
When the city of Portsmouth expanded outward from the original settlement, the old houses of Strawbery Banke were left more or less untouched. By the time the neighborhood finally began to be restored in the 1950s, a surprising number of 18th century buildings were still in use, including at least eight which dated from before the American Revolution. Among the colonial-era highlights are the Pitt Tavern (1766), Stoodley’s Tavern (1761) and the Sherburne House (1703), the oldest building in Strawbery Banke.
Hartford, CT (founded 1634)
Wethersfield is one of the oldest communities in Connecticut, predating neighboring Hartford by a few years. It was one of the few places outside of Salem, Massachusetts to witness the atrocities of the witch trials, and between 1648 and 1651 three of Wethersfield’s citizens were executed as witches. George Washington and French general Rochambeau passed through Wethersfield in 1781 where, according to local legend, they planned the final campaigns of the American Revolution.
Close enough to Hartford to thrive as a suburb of the state capital, Wethersfield nevertheless retained much of its colonial-era charm, and many of its 17th and 18th century structures survived to the present day. According to the town’s historic properties inventory, there are nearly fifty homes and buildings in Wethersfield that date from before the American Revolution. The most famous is arguably the Webb House (1752) because of its association with George Washington.