Which American cities have the longest history? Which cities feel the most historic, or simply the most old?
I tabulated the times when the 30 largest American cities were initially founded, incorporated and when they first reached half of their peak population. The point of half-population correlates best to a general feeling of how old a city is, as most of the city’s neighborhoods, infrastructure and landmarks were in place by then. The second half of the population fills out the framework developed to house the first half.
As seen in the chart below, the two oldest American cities, Boston and Philadelphia, reached half of their peak population in the 1890 census. New York and San Francisco reached that point in 1910, twenty years later. Los Angeles reached half its current (peak) population in 1950, hence the proliferation of art deco and freeways, while Las Vegas did so in the 2000 census, which is why everything there appears new. Note that among the nine oldest cities shown on the chart, all but New York and San Fransisco have lost population since 1960 and not yet gained it back. New York and San Fransisco also lost population in that time frame, but their enduring urban vibe and economies have caused them to bounce back and achieve new peak populations.