Portsmouth, Virginia facts for kids

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Portsmouth, Virginia
Independent city
Downtown Portsmouth
Downtown Portsmouth
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Country  United States
State  Virginia
County None (Independent city)
Founded 1752
Area
 • Total 120 km2 (47 sq mi)
 • Land 90 km2 (34 sq mi)
 • Water 30 km2 (13 sq mi)
Elevation 6 m (20 ft)
Population (2010)
 • Total 95,535
 • Density 785/km2 (2,033/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 757
FIPS code 51-64000
GNIS feature ID 1497102
Website http://www.portsmouthva.gov/

Portsmouth is an independent city located in the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 95,535. It is part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area.

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, often called the Norfolk Navy Yard, is a historic and active U.S. Navy facility that is actually located in Portsmouth rather than Norfolk; the original name "Gosport" was changed to "Norfolk" to reflect its location in Norfolk County, VA. The shipyard upgrades, remodels, and repairs ships of the US Navy and is one of the few facilities in the world with the capability to dry dock an aircraft carrier.

Directly opposite Norfolk, the city of Portsmouth also has miles of waterfront land on the Elizabeth River as part of the harbor of Hampton Roads. There is a ferry boat that takes riders back and forth across the water between Downtown Norfolk and Olde Towne Portsmouth.

History

See also: Timeline of Portsmouth, Virginia

Portsmouth is located on the western side of the Elizabeth River directly across from the City of Norfolk. In 1620, the future site of Portsmouth was recognized as suitable shipbuilding location by John Wood, a shipbuilder, who petitioned King James I of England for a land grant. The surrounding area was soon settled as a plantation community.

Historical Collections of Virginia - Portsmouth
Harbor at Portsmouth in 1843; the Naval Hospital is visible in the background

Portsmouth was founded by Colonel William Crawford, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. It was established as a town in 1752 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly and was named for Portsmouth, England.

In 1767, Andrew Sprowle, a shipbuilder, founded the Gosport Shipyard adjacent to Portsmouth. The Gosport Shipyard at Portsmouth was owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia after the American Revolutionary War and was sold to the new United States federal government.

In 1855, the Portsmouth and Norfolk area suffered an epidemic of yellow fever which killed 1 of every three citizens. It became an independent city from Norfolk County in 1858.

During the American Civil War, in 1861, Virginia joined the Confederate States of America. Fearing that the Confederacy would take control of the shipyard at Portsmouth, the shipyard commander ordered the burning of the shipyard. The Confederate forces did in fact take over the shipyard, and did so without armed conflict through an elaborate ruse orchestrated by civilian railroad builder William Mahone (soon to become a famous Confederate officer). The Union forces withdrew to Fort Monroe across Hampton Roads, which was the only land in the area which remained under Union control.

In early 1862, the Confederate ironclad warship CSS Virginia was rebuilt using the burned-out hulk of USS Merrimack. Virginia engaged the Union ironclad USS Monitor in the famous Battle of Hampton Roads during the Union blockade of Hampton Roads. The Confederates burned the shipyard again when they left in May 1862.

Following the recapture of Norfolk and Portsmouth by the Union forces, the name of the shipyard was changed to Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The name of the shipyard was derived from its location in Norfolk County. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard today is located entirely within the city limits of Portsmouth, Virginia. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard name has been retained to minimize any confusion with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which itself is actually located in Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

PortsmouthVirginiaLightship
The Lightship Portsmouth is part of the Naval Shipyard Museum

Portsmouth was the county seat of Norfolk County until 1963 when the new city of Chesapeake was formed in a political consolidation with the city of South Norfolk. Portsmouth's other county neighbor, the former Nansemond County, also consolidated with a smaller city, forming the new city of Suffolk in 1974.

One of the older cities of Hampton Roads, in the early 21st century, Portsmouth was undergoing moderate urban renewal in the downtown.

The APM "MAERSK" marine terminal for container ships opened in 2007 in the West Norfolk section.

Historic sites

Portsmouth Courthouse, former Norfolk County Courthouse, in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia
Built in 1846, the Portsmouth Courthouse is a historic landmark in the center of the Olde Towne Historic District.

Olde Towne

The Olde Towne Historic District features one of the largest collections of historically significant homes between Alexandria, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was built by slaves and free men and is the second-oldest building in Portsmouth and the city's oldest black church.

The city contains a number of other historic buildings, as well, including the Pass House, which was built in 1841 by Judge James Murdaugh and occupied by Union troops from 1862 to 1865. Federal forces required Portsmouth residents to obtain a written pass to travel across the Elizabeth River and beyond. These passes were issued from the English basement and thus the name "Pass House" was derived.

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth

Formerly the Naval Hospital Portsmouth, the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth is a United States Navy medical center adjacent to the Olde Towne Historic District and Park View Historic District. Founded in 1827, it is the oldest continuously running hospital in the Navy medical system with the motto "First and Finest."

Seaboard Coastline Building

Located at 1 High Street in the Olde Towne Historic District, the Seaboard Coastline Building is a historic train station and former headquarters of the Seaboard Air Line railroad company.

The Hill House

Four-story 1825 English basement home furnished entirely with original family belongings. It is evident from the furnishings that the Hill family were avid collectors and lived graciously over a period of 150 years. The house remains in its original condition, with limited renovation through the years.

Cedar Grove Cemetery

Established in 1832, Cedar Grove Cemetery is the oldest city-owned cemetery in Portsmouth. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Portsmouth, Virginia, the cemetery is noted for its funerary art and the civic, business, maritime, religious and military leaders who are buried there. Historical markers placed throughout the cemetery allow for self-guided tours. The cemetery is located between Effingham Street and Fort Lane in Olde Towne Portsmouth. Entrance is through the south gate to the cemetery, located on London Boulevard.

Geography

Newport news norfolk portsmouth
Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia from space in July 1996. (Portsmouth is in the center right portion of the photo)

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 47 square miles (120 km2), of which 34 square miles (88 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (28.0%) is water.

Climate

Portsmouth's mild humid subtropical climate means outdoor activities can be enjoyed year round. The weather in Portsmouth is temperate and seasonal. Summers are hot and humid with warm evenings. The mean annual temperature is 65 °F (18 °C), with an average annual snowfall of 3 inches and an average annual rainfall of 47 inches. No measurable snow fell in 1999. The wettest seasons are the spring and summer, although rainfall is fairly constant all year round. The highest recorded temperature was 105.0 °F in 1980. The lowest recorded temperature was -3.0 °F on January 21, 1985.

Additionally, the geographic location of the city, with respect to the principal storm tracks, is especially favorable, as it is south of the average path of storms originating in the higher latitudes, and north of the usual tracks of hurricanes and other major tropical storms. Snow falls rarely, averaging 3 inches (76 mm) per season.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 6,477
1850 8,626 33.2%
1860 9,496 10.1%
1870 10,590 11.5%
1880 11,390 7.6%
1890 13,268 16.5%
1900 17,427 31.3%
1910 33,190 90.5%
1920 54,387 63.9%
1930 45,704 −16.0%
1940 50,745 11.0%
1950 80,039 57.7%
1960 114,773 43.4%
1970 110,963 −3.3%
1980 104,577 −5.8%
1990 103,910 −0.6%
2000 100,565 −3.2%
2010 95,535 −5.0%
Est. 2015 96,201 0.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013
USA Portsmouth city, Virginia age pyramid
Age distribution in Portsmouth

As of the census of 2010, there were 95,535 people, 38,170 households, and 25,497 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,032.7 people per square mile (1,170.9/km²). There were 41,605 housing units at an average density of 1,254.7 per square mile (484.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 53.3% African American, 41.6% White, 0.4% Native American, 1.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.0% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.1% of the population.

There were 38,170 households out of which 30.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.1% were married couples living together, 10.9% have a female household with no husband present and 33.2% were non-families. 27.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 29.1% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $46,340, and the median income for a family was $53,769. Males had a median income of $39,871 versus $33,140 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,108. About 13.5% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.1% of those under age 18 and 10.8% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Tourism

Portsmouth has a long history as a port town and city. The Olde Towne Business and Historical District is located in the downtown area, where a combination of preservation and redevelopment has been underway. An example is Hawthorn Hotel & Suites at The Governor Dinwiddie Hotel, which was renovated and reopened in 2005 after being closed for more than 10 years. It has been recognized by Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historical Preservation that identifies hotels that have maintained their historical integrity, architecture and ambiance and provides resources for their preservation. (Dinwiddie County near Petersburg was also named for him).

Other points of interest include the Portsmouth City Park, featuring the 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge Portsmouth City Railroad with an operating Chance Rides C.P. Huntington locomotive named Pokey Smokey II. The original Pokey Smokey locomotive was built by Crown Metal Products and ran at the park for many years before being sold at auction. It now runs on the Mideast Railroad in Ederville in Carthage, North Carolina.

Sister cities


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