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7 U.S. Cities That Were Once State Capitals
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June 4, 2019
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Lee Ridley
I'm a freelance writer and editor who's written for a variety of industries, but areas of specialty include luxury travel, health and wellness. I am the owner of Ridley Creative Communications, LLC.
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Some of the state capitals you know today have not always been state capitals. Since the formation of the country, a handful of states have uprooted their capitals for a variety of reasons. Here are seven U.S. cities that were once state capitals.

Huntsville, Alabama

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Huntsville sits in northern Alabama at the foot of a mountain not far from the Tennessee border. Once the cotton trading center of the Tennessee Valley, today it’s nicknamed “Rocket City” for the team of German scientists led by Wernher von Braun who were brought here in 1950 to develop rockets for the U.S. Army. In addition to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville is also home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. If you want to experience interactive astronaut-training activities, see authentic rockets such as the Saturn V moon rocket and learn how nation’s space program has evolved over the decades, head to Huntsville for an out-of-world experience.

San Jose, California

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The “Capital of Silicon Valley” was once California’s state capital. When Mexico ceded California to the U.S. in 1848, San Jose was named the territory’s capital. It remained so when California achieved statehood in 1850, but by 1854, Sacramento won out. Historically a mining town, IBM established its headquarters in San Jose in 1943, leading the way for a multitude of the world’s biggest tech companies to establish a presence here. You’ll need a great salary or a massive trust fund to live here, though — San Jose is one of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in.

Savannah, Georgia

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This scenic coastal city in Georgia, the most southern of the 13 original colonies, was its first capital — but certainly not its last. Due to fighting with the British during the American Revolution and in-state fighting with the city of Augusta later, Savannah lost its capital title a few times. By the time Atlanta was named Georgia’s capital in 1868, it was the state’s fifth capital. History enthusiasts will enjoy exploring Savannah’s historic district and the beautiful Forsyth Park. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy kayaking and hiking in Savannah’s Lowcountry rivers. Beachgoers need only travel 20 minutes from downtown to the gorgeous beaches on Tybee Island. You can also float down the Savannah River on a sunset cruise or sample delicious Southern cuisine at one of the many gourmet restaurants here.

Portland, Maine

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The picturesque coastal city of Portland was Maine’s capital when it achieved statehood in 1820 and remained so until 1832 when the capital was moved to Augusta. At the time, Portland was a a tiny town but has since grown into Maine’s largest city with a population of about 67,000. Today, Portland attracts thousands of tourists who come to view the iconic lighthouses that dot Maine’s coastline, savor renowned local lobster and seafood in the multitude of restaurants, explore museums and enjoy the stunning scenery. One of the top things to do here is to go out on a working lobster boat and help the crew check and rebait the traps. You’ll even have the option to purchase live lobsters at the end. You can also rent bikes and visit three of the local lighthouses, including the Portland Head Light, Maine’s most photographed lighthouse. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy kayaking Casco Bay and spotting seabirds, seals and dolphins.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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By far Louisiana’s most famous and popular city, New Orleans was also the capital when Louisiana achieved statehood in 1812. Louisiana’s capital bounced between several cities for the next six decades — twice coming back to “The Big Easy,” before permanently settling in Baton Rouge in 1882. Also known as the “Birthplace of Jazz,” New Orleans attracts nearly 18 million visitors annually who come to hear iconic jazz music, savor its renowned Cajun and Creole cuisine, explore historical sites — and of course, revel in the legendary festivals such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz & Heritage Festival. If the craziness of the French Quarter and the infamous Bourbon Street aren’t your style, head to the more peaceful Garden District to view the city’s loveliest historic homes loaded with ivy, trees and beautiful gardens.

New York City, New York

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New York City wasn’t New York’s first state capital — that honor goes to Kingston, but it was the nation’s first capital when the Constitution was ratified in the late 1780s. As with many other states, New York’s capital location changed several times, moving between New York City, Kingston, Albany and Poughkeepsie, before finally settling in Albany in 1797. Today, New York City is the most populous city in the U.S., home to more than 8.6 million residents — and is visited by more than 60 million people annually. Visitors flock to the “Big Apple” to tour its iconic sites such as the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Times Square and any number of spectacular museums. A few must-dos include seeing a Broadway show, a Yankees game and a performance at Madison Square Garden.

Knoxville, Tennessee

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Knoxville was Tennessee's first capital when it joined the Union in 1796. Located along the Tennessee River in eastern Tennessee, Knoxville served as a regional riverboat trade and transportation center before the Civil War. Many who lived in eastern Tennessee opposed withdrawing from the Union during the Civil War, but city residents voted to secede, and Tennessee joined the Confederacy in 1861.

Today Knoxville boasts the breathtaking scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains — and is the gateway to the most visited U.S. national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can also visit World’s Fair Park, from when Knoxville hosted the World Fair in 1982.