From the Spanish conquest of Florida in the 16th-century to the French settlements in Louisiana in the 18th-century, European countries have interwoven themselves into the fabric of the United States, and many of their cultural influences can still be seen today. These European historical roots have led to the production and preservation of period-style homes across the U.S. including Spanish colonials, Georgian estates, Victorian mansions, and Mid-Century Modern ranches.
Thousands of these historical homes built between the 1600s and the early 1900s have withstood the test of time and have earned spaces on the National Register of Historic Places. As fans of early American architecture, we’re always on the hunt for cities and towns that showcase our nation’s beautiful history. Therefore, the history buffs on the Homes.com team have scraped the registrar of the National Park Service’s (NPS) National Register of Historic Places to determine which cities in the U.S. have the most historical homes.
We compiled a list of 50 notably old or historic cities in the U.S. to analyze within this study. We then mined the NPS registrar to find the number of historical homes located both inside and outside historic districts within each city. Finally, we ranked each city based on their total number of registered historical homes per capita and where the percentage of historical homes was highest.
Founded by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565, St. Augustine ranks number one as the city with the most historical homes – 11,231 registered homes per capita, to be exact. A massive 22% of all homes in St. Augustine are historical. St. Augustine, dubbed America’s oldest city, is chock full of centuries-old houses in its downtown historic district as well as iconic historic landmarks like the Lightner Museum and the Castillo de San Marcos.
With its French Quarter houses with wrought-iron balconies, the port town of New Orleans lands the number two spot on our list with 10,532 registered historic houses per capita and over 36,000 total registered houses. Almost 19% of all homes in New Orleans are historical. New Orleans, coined “the birthplace of Jazz” is, overall, a city conducive for the ‘artistic temperament.’ Musicians, novelists, and visual artists such as Louis Armstrong, Truman Capote, and Edgar Degas all hailed from there.
Newport, Rhode Island, a classical summer resort town, ranks number six on our list, with 6,198 registered historical homes per capita and where almost 12% of all homes in the town are historical. Socialites, business moguls, diplomats, and politicians have been known to “summer” there throughout the decades, but most notably in the Gilded Age. The ‘cottages’ in the Bellevue Avenue historic district and ‘The Breakers’ were often lived in by established American families such as the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Kennedys.
Founded in 1661 by English settlers, Baltimore, Maryland, The Monumental City, ranks number seven on our list with over 37,000 total registered historical homes and 87 historical districts. According to the Baltimore Sun, some of Baltimore’s districts like Federal Hill, Fells Point, and Mount Vernon Place, are among the earliest registered historic districts in the U.S.. Baltimore was also home to celebrity figures, Billie Holiday and Babe Ruth.
Low-country cities like Savannah GA, and Charleston, SC also made it to our top 20 list with 4,568 and 3,780 registered historic homes per capita, respectively. Charleston is bursting with historical home tours that feature Italianate and Gothic Revival homes along the Charleston Battery, Rainbow Row, and Meeting Street. Meanwhile, visitors from near and far flood into Savannah each year to take in its elegant cobblestone streets, 22 park squares, and ornate, 18th-century architecture.
Along with historical homes comes the notable residents living within them. For instance, Ernest Hemingway lived in a charming, Spanish Colonial home in Key West, Florida, the third spot on our list, in the 1930s while writing some of his most celebrated literary works like “A Farewell to Arms.” Fourth-place, Oak Park, Illinois, has more buildings and homes designed by legendary architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, than any other city in the U.S.
Cleveland, Ohio was the home of many Renaissance men and women such as Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison. Other famous residents who called St. Louis, Missouri home include Maya Angelou, Miles Davis, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Lindbergh.
Preserving and restoring historical homes and districts has developed into a vital American pastime. While this study includes the list of cities with the most historical homes, there are certainly hundreds of other U.S. cities with thriving historic districts. Other cities that have a large number of historic homes for sale include Manchester, New Hampshire; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Check out Homes.com today to see all the historic homes these cities, and others, have to offer!