This Old House: Ranking America's Oldest Cities

Anyone with an Internet connection can tell you when a city was founded. But after the trauma of urban renewal and suburban flight, how much historic fabric remains? Wendell Cox ranks metropolitan areas by their shares of pre-World War II homes.
February 15, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Using information provided by the 2007- 2011 American Community Survey, Cox "uses the percentage of dwelling units, both owner and renter occupied constructed before 1940 to rate the ages of the nation's 51 major metropolitan areas (those with more than 1 million population in 2010)." 

"The nation's oldest metropolitan areas, not surprisingly, are concentrated in the Northeast and the upper Midwest," says Cox. "Boston is the oldest with 35.7% of its residences built before 1940. This varies from 55.6% in the historical core city of Boston to roughly 32 percent in the suburbs, which are the oldest themselves in the country." Providence comes in a close second (with 33.1% of dwellings built prior to World War II). Perhaps more surprising is the third place city: Buffalo. "The core city of Buffalo is the oldest historical core municipality, with 62.8% of its housing predating 1940. Buffalo suburbs, however, are considerably newer, with only 20.1% older than 1940."

Cox also charts the youngest cities in the country, which are overwhelming located in the West and South. Las Vegas is the youngest major metropolitan area, with only .3% of its housing stock built before 1940.

"Overall, America’s major metropolitan areas are overwhelmingly postwar in their urban development, with approximately 14% of residences built before 1940," he adds.

"The bottom line is one different than one tends to hear in the urban-core-oriented press," concludes Cox. "In most of America the detached house predominates and virtually all development since 1940 has been suburban, both inside and outside the historical core municipalities."

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Published on Thursday, February 14, 2013 in New Geography
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