Imagine drinking a beer that's brewed with decade upon decade of history, or visiting a hotel that's more than a thousand years old. Those hypothetical situations are the reality for some of the world's oldest corporations and establishments.
The oldest businesses still around today have truly stood the test of time. True, some have changed their approach, and their ownership has changed hands many times. But their legacies are impressive tributes to human ingenuity. Is the temple-building business drying up? Become a general construction company instead. Are grandfather clocks going out of style? Move into producing wrist- and pocket-watches as well.
With their fascinating origin stories and remarkable modern-day reputations, the oldest companies still in business deserve to be celebrated.
Kongo Gumi Construction Company Operated For More Than 1,400 Years
The beautiful ancient architecture of Japan has lasted for centuries. Kongo Gumi Construction Company of Osaka is partially to thank for that. The corporation has left its name on cities and temples throughout Japan, and was the oldest construction company in the world.
The company was founded around 578 by Shigemitsu Kongo. He had moved to Osaka from the Korean peninsula after being commissioned by the Japanese Imperial family to build a temple. Buddhism was taking hold in Japan, and the demand for shrines and temples was growing. That presented a great opportunity for Shigemitsu, who had already made a name for himself in Korea as a temple builder.
Kongo Gumi Construction Company continued to operate as a business for an astounding 1,428 years, through centuries of turmoil, the Meiji Restoration period, two World Wars, and a recession. Then, 2006 arrived, and the company floundered with debt. Eventually, the ancient construction company merged with Takamatsu.
The Nishiyama Hot Spring Hotel Is The Oldest Hotel In The World
Since 705, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hot Spring Hotel has hosted guests at its location near Mount Fuji. It was first opened by Fujiwara Mahito, whose father was in the court of Emperor Tenji Tenno. The hotel frequently hosted members of the royal family and powerful samurai.
The hotel's success is rooted in its traditionalism. While the building is frequently renovated, it doesn't offer Internet access, and the decor is kept simple. Instead, guests are invited to focus on the hot springs and relax.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Nishiyama is the oldest hotel still operating and remains the only business of its age to continually be owned by the same family.
St. Peter Stiftskeller Restaurant Has Served Patrons Since 803
Dining at the St. Peter Stiftskeller restaurant is an experience steeped in history - the Austrian restaurant and beer cellar has served patrons since 803. For some perspective, consider this: Emperor Charlemagne I was 60 years old when the restaurant first opened its doors.
The establishment was first mentioned by Alcuin, who was a royal assistant and scholar to Charlemagne. The restaurant has seen its fair share of history over the decades; the building hosted the composer Michael Haydn, housed troops during the Napoleonic Wars, and was looted during World War I. Today, St. Peter Stiftskeller is still recommended as a stop for any tourist hungry for a good meal and a touch of local lore.
The Bingley Arms Pub Predates The Crusades
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Bingley Arms enjoys the distinction of being the oldest pub in Britain. It was established in 953, before England was a unified kingdom, and 142 years before the First Crusade.
The building was originally known as the Priests Inn, since it once served as a convenient stopping place for traveling priests. The pub also served as a hideout for Catholics when Henry VIII began dissolving monasteries. In 1780, the pub was renamed in honor of its then-owner, Lord Bingley.
Today, visitors can still stop by the Bingley Arms for a hot meal, a cold brew, and perhaps a glimpse of one of the several ghosts said to haunt the building.