A street is defined as a public road in a city or town, typically with houses and buildings on one or both sides; public roads that have buildings on both sides. A street is a road, not all roads are streets.
Huguenot Street, established in 1678, located in New Paltz, NY is considered the oldest street in America. It is recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited street in America by the New England Archivists (NEA). Huguenot Street is also listed as the oldest street in America with its original houses by the U.S National Park Service.
Today the street consists of many historic sites. This National Historic Landmark district in New Paltz contains seven museums housed in historic buildings, a reconstructed wigwam, and so much more.
The Huguenots, a group of French Protestants who followed religious reformer John Calvin, fled France in the 17th century to escape religious persecution and outright warfare between Catholics and Protestants. Along the way, they formed a small community in upstate New York that included a street that people still live on today. Historic Huguenot Street honors the land of the Munsee Lenape people, who are the indigenous people of the region.
Preservation efforts for the oldest street in America began in the 19th century, which is why its incredible history is still so impactful today. Huguenot Street is part of a historic settlement that has been protected since 1964. This is when the land itself became a National Historic Landmark and today, in its place, exists a perfect reconstruction of 17th-century life in America. In order to appreciate the street and reconstructed village itself, though, it's important to understand how it came to be.
Still operated by the Huguenot Historical Society (which is headquartered on Huguenot Street itself), the houses on the street have generally been restored and maintained in good to excellent condition and are open to the public.
Huguenot Street is now a quiet tree-lined side street on the northwestern fringes of modern New Paltz. It runs north-south on the eastern edge of the Wallkill River flood plain and is bordered on its east side by the tracks of the West Shore Railroad. At its southern end, immediately beyond the landmark boundary, there is a modern apartment complex, separated from the district visually and topographically.
At its northern or upper end, Huguenot Street curves sharply east; the district is thus visually closed at both ends. Two streets, West Broadhead Avenue and North Front Street, intersect with Huguenot Street on its eastern side.
*Note: Often there are two other streets mentioned for the title of the oldest street in America. But neither are older than Huguenot Street. Elfreth's' Alley, built in 1702, is technically the oldest residential street in America. See our Philadelphia page for photos of Elfreth's Alley. The other, Aviles Street, in St. Augustine claims to be the "oldest street in the United States". But not much of its history is recorded. Archaeologists had found pottery shards from the early 1600s by digging a couple of layers under the brick paving. Other than that (which doesn't prove that was when Aviles Street was established) the street’s origins are unknown. This makes Huguenot Street officially the oldest street of any kind in America.