Destination Preservation: Top U.S. Historic Preservation Cities

Notable monuments, well-preserved landmarks, historic districts, storied pasts, and truly friendly tourist services are all things you can expect out of any of these top United States Historic Preservation Cities, which are among the most accomplished, history-filled, and well-known regions with ample preservation efforts.

Preservation of these sites is a very important task, an art of educating the public about the past, the beginnings of our nation and our livelihoods. New development can be great for certain cities or metro areas, but revitalizing old development in an effort to boost the economy, spread historical wisdom, and beautify an area can be just as great!

  • Savannah, GA - Savannah is home to over 14 registered historic districts, an iconic, gorgeous southern city that has saved over 350 historic properties from demolition in the past century. A focus on preservation within the city began in the 1960s when a 2.2 square mile National Historic Landmark District was established, the largest one of its kind in the U.S. The Historic Savannah Foundation has done amazingly at allowing visitors to sightsee authentic 18th and 19th-century architecture around the city, enjoy the rich cultural scene, and sample iconic international cuisine and southern fare from the authentic eating spaces of one seriously well-preserved city.

  • Danville, KY - Welcome to Danville, Kentucky, a city that has gained much attention since 2001 for winning the Great American Main Street Award for their outstanding efforts in a $52 million dollar preservation project. The project created 300 new jobs, 100 new businesses in result, and revitalized a popular local attraction, The Hub. There was a significant population boom after the old downtown buildings, each one unique, vibrant, and beautiful, were renovated, and several tourists from all over absolutely love the chance to come to see the mix of authentic historic buildings and meticulous replicas within the Constitution Square, filled with Victorian architecture and a Post Office from the early 1700s!
  • St. Augustine, FL - St. Augustine, Florida, is known to be the oldest in the entire country, founded in 1565! This gorgeous and historic Sunshine State city is filled with amazingly authentic Spanish Colonial architecture, complete with structures dating back all the way to the early 1600s. There is even a 1500 era watchtower, the oldest marine navigational assistant, that was well-known in this area. Enjoy seven nationally recognized historic districts, each extensively protected by city code, regulating everything down to doorknobs and paint colors. Be sure to visit the Ponce de Leon Park and Castillo de San Marcos (1695) to get a more in-depth look at the city’s history and preservation efforts!
    • Oldest House St. Augustine Pixabay Public Domain Oldest House St. Augustine Pixabay Public Domain
  • Victoria, TX & San Antonio, TX - When it comes to Texas it is hard for us to pick city over the other in regards to Victoria and San Antonio, both claiming strongholds on best preservation and most accurate history around the state. Victoria is a city with another excellent Main Street Program worth mentioning, and is considered by some historians to be the official "starting point of Texas history." You will find over 100 nationally registered places, including the Victoria County Courthouse and 1895 founded Fossati’s Delicatessen, one of the oldest restaurants in the state. San Antonio, on the other hand, has obvious impressive historic ties, the well preserved Alamo being its crown jewel. Learn the history and story of the famous battle at the "King of the Wild Frontier" and visit the San Antonio Missions National Park, the area established in 1836.
    Exterior view of the historic Alamo shortly after sunrise

    Exterior view of the historic Alamo shortly after sunrise

  • Charleston, SC - Of course we can’t forget Charleston, South Carolina, one of the most well-known and well-preserved U.S. cities as well as a highly popular tourist destination. History buffs from all over the world flock here, a city which set a U.S. standard for historical preservation. In 1931 Charleston became the first city to form an Architectural Review, the oldest community based historic preservation group designed to protect all the amazing Federal, Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate architecture. See a skyline full of historic steeples and Civil War memorial sites, and even learn all about the popular regional Seven to Save program, an amazing event in which they choose seven new structures to save each year. The unique heritage and outstanding in-tact historic culture of Charleston is a definite must-stop for best overall preservation destinations!
  • Santa Fe, NM - Welcome to Sante Fe, New Mexico, one of the best-preserved cities in the United States. This uniquely gorgeous desert city is full of dwellings made strictly of materials found in the Rocky Mountains, rocks and red clay adobe structures everywhere you look. Within this city you will actually find one of the oldest continually used buildings in the United States, the 1610 built Palace of Governors. You will also find a beautifully preserved historic church, the Santuario de Guadalupe built in 1777. Both of these places, along with all the historic districts filled with adobe structures, sheds light on the city's cultural legacy and historic architecture, making it a definite choice for our list of the best!
  • Pueblo, CO - What makes Pueblo, Colorado, so unique to us is the fact that it conducts ongoing studies of historic neighborhoods in order to figure out the best method of preservation and history education. That is a serious commitment to preservation integrity and we have to applaud it. You will find ample renovated buildings throughout this city, especially with the five neighborhoods listed as National Historic Landmarks. If you are lucky you will make it for a visit here during the annual historic homes tour, but even if you don’t there are several annual cultural festivals honoring preserved buildings such as the 1912 Pueblo County Courthouse or the 1800s era local Historic District.
  • Boston, MA - It’s hard to not include Boston on such a historically charged list of destinations, the city boasting the title of American Firsts, including the first public library, subway system, public school, and public park, all excellent examples of still in-tact (for the most part) authentic historic structures. The level of commitment to preservation in Boston is outstanding, as you will see in the cobblestone streets the Puritans and revolutionaries used to roam. Check out all the historic college buildings, Faneuil Hall, Beacon Hill, and Freedom Trail while there, it’s practically a history-buff heaven!

Historic Must-Mentions:

  • New Orleans, LA - European Architecture, Creole cuisine, jazz and soul beginnings, and French quarter - this city is a historic playground! 
    Architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    The architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Philadelphia, PA - Philly is famous for Ben Franklin, the Liberty Bell, and tasty cheese steak debates, but also for historic Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed!
  • Richmond, VA - Once the Confederacy Capital, just two hours away from D.C., is a Civil War history-steeped city full of important historic structures!