The history of a town can often be told by its architecture. As you travel the country, not only will you find amazing food and beautiful towns across the nation, but you’ll also find interesting histories in establishments such as the oldest restaurants, schools, parks, and even bars. One oft-overlooked piece of history, however, is the very homes we live in.
When a building is referred to as “pre-war,” that means it was built in the time period between the turn of the 20th century and the beginning of World War II. To take a look at which towns have the most history in terms of their dwellings, we decided to consult the numbers of the U.S. Census Bureau. Using American Community Survey five-year estimates from 2012 to 2016, we looked for places that had the highest percentage of homes that are pre-war or built even earlier — homes in which the structure of the unit was built in or before 1939. (These numbers don’t reflect when the home was converted, remodeled, or renovated.) We chose the place at the top of the list for each state, though we eliminated any town that had a margin of error that was more than 10 percent.
The designation of “place” according to the U.S. Census Bureau is applied to both incorporated places — towns, cities, villages, and boroughs that legally exist according to the laws of their respective states — and census-designated places, or places that are delineated for the purposes of collecting data on “settled concentrations of population” that may have a name but aren’t technically incorporated under state law. For the purposes of this article, we often use the word “town” in the colloquial sense of a named area with residents but will indicate if a place is technically a city, village, or borough as well. Many on this list are exceedingly small towns, and interestingly enough, quite a few started out as mining towns or railroad depots that boomed early in their history before entering a long-term population decline. Whether they’re still going strong or just a remnant of their former glory, there’s still quite a bit of history in all of these towns with the most old homes in their state.