The city of Portsmouth, Virginia originated as a plantation community, and was officially founded in 1752 by Colonel William Crawford. It became an independent city in 1858. With a population of approximately 102,000 residents, Portsmouth is enjoying growth thanks to its picturesque waterfront, temperate climate, and solid employment opportunities.
In recent years, the city government of Portsmouth, working with area nonprofit groups, has strived to increase Portsmouth's popularity by renovating the historic downtown district. A driving force in Portsmouth's economic development is the city's location, which provides easy access to major transportation routes, as well as its maritime tradition. Portsmouth is home to major employers including the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Naval Medical Center, and the Fifth District Coast Guard Command.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
The city of Portsmouth is experiencing a period of economic development. The city's retail base and the existing businesses are especially growing rapidly. Portsmouth has a city department for economic development, which manages many projects worth more than $1 billion in new investment.
Portsmouth is home for a variety of industries. The most prominent of them are associated with the U.S. government as contractors. Many businesses are related to maritime industry, along with healthcare, food and beverage.
By virtue of its central location, Portsmouth offers a very suitable environment for corporate and professional operations. It provides easy access to customers, clients and satellite offices throughout the region. Availability of multi-modal transport, including barges, is also a booster for businesses.
Leading employers in Portsmouth include Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Naval Medical Center, the Fifth District Coast Guard Command, Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center, The Pines Residential Treatment Center, Gwaltney of Smithfield, Earl Industries, CDI Marine, and Wal-Mart Supercenter.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Portsmouth has several historic neighborhoods within its boundaries, including:
- Cradock: Established in 1918, this neighborhood accommodates around 750 cottage-style single-family homes.
- Olde Towne: Established in the 18th century as the city's original neighborhood, Olde Towne is located in the northeastern corner of the city overlooking the Elizabeth River.
- Park View: Park View was established between 1888 and 1892 and was one of the first neighborhoods outside of Portsmouth's original 18th century core, Olde Towne.
- Port Norfolk: This is a more suburban neighborhood. Established in the late 19th century, Port Norfolk offers convenient access to Downtown.
Newly established neighborhoods in Portsmouth include:
- Downtown Portsmouth: This is a recently developed district. Downtown is located to the south of Olde Towne and is more service oriented.
- Swimming Point: This is a quaint neighborhood that accommodates about a dozen houses.
- Westbury: Located at the south of Downtown, Westbury is a mixed-income neighborhood. The housing in Westbury is quite affordable.
Other midtown neighborhoods and districts include Glenshellah, Lake Shores, Crescent Place Apartments, Waterview, Mount Hermon, New Port at Victory Village and Westhaven. Victory Neighborhoods include Simonsdale, Glenshellah, Kings Gate Crossing, Westhaven, Green Lakes, New Port at Victory, Crystal Lake Estates, and Cavalier Manor.
There's no shortage of history to explore in Portsmouth. Visitors have many points of interest to choose from, including:
- Cedar Grove Cemetery: Dating from 1832, Cedar Grove Cemetery is the oldest graveyard in Portsmouth. Historical markers throughout the cemetery guide and inform visitors.
- Emanuel AME Church: This house of worship is Portsmouth's oldest African-American church. Built by slaves and free men, it is also the second-oldest building in the city.
- Hawthorn Hotel & Suites at the Governor Dinwiddie Hotel: Recently renovated, the Hawthorn Hotel has been recognized by the National Trust for Historical Preservation. Named after Robert Dinwiddie, a colonial-era governor of Virginia, the building is open to the public.
- The Hill House: Built in 1825, this stately English home boasts a collection of artifacts. The Hill House has undergone some renovation, but remains essentially true to its mid-19th century roots.
- Olde Towne Business and Historical District: Located in downtown Portsmouth, Olde Towne has undergone more than a decade of redevelopment and revitalization. Only one square mile in area, it offers visitors the opportunity to stroll and observe numerous historically fascinating and educational points of interest.
- Pass House: This 1841 residence was constructed by James Murdaugh, a Portsmouth judge, and was occupied by Union Troop forces from 1862 to 1865.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
- Lightship Museum: Portsmouth's floating Lightship Museum celebrates the historical significance of the lightships that helped mariners return to land safely.
- Naval Shipyard Museum: A tribute to all things nautical, the Naval Shipyard Museum introduces visitors to a host of sailing vessels and maritime ephemera.
- Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery: Maritime art, antiques and furnishings are displayed and sold at this gallery, which was recently voted one of the "Most Popular Hampton Roads Places."
- Vincent Hester Gallery: Located in a century-old building, the Vincent Hester Gallery showcases local, regional, and national artwork.
- Virginia Sports Hall of Fame: This family-friendly, hands-on museum celebrates athletes from a wide variety of sports, including baseball and NASCAR.
- Commodore Theatre: The Commodore Theatre has retained its 1945 Art Deco glory, but has recently been updated to include a 42-foot screen and THX Digital sound system.
- nTelos Wireless Pavilion at Harbor Center: This state-of-the-art venue, known for its excellent acoustics, can seat up to 6,500 persons and offers year-round performances.
- Willett Hall: This hall regularly features theatrical performances, guest speakers, dancers and concerts.
- Horse and Carriage Rides: A memorable way to discover Olde Towne Portsmouth, horse and carriage rides are available seasonally.
- Olde Towne Lantern Tour: Visitors can explore the Olde Towne Historic District by twilight during this tour. Portsmouth folklore, legends, history, and architecture are discussed along the way.
- Olde Towne Walking Tour: Self-directed walking tours of Olde Towne are available through the Portsmouth Visitor Information Center.
- Path of History: The Path of History links the Naval Medical Center and the Naval Shipyard. Visitors who journey on this historic walkway can stop at a number of Portsmouth landmarks between the two endpoints, including Pass House, Hill House and Chevra T'helim Temple.
- Elizabeth River Run: This annual 10K footrace is held in May and offers runners the opportunity to compete while running along the Elizabeth River. A post-race party is held at the NTELOS Pavilion.
- Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race: Each October, this event offers recreational and competitive sailors the opportunity to race from Baltimore to Portsmouth. Proceeds from the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race help support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Elizabeth River Project.
- TodiMusicFest: This uniquely named festival is the American version of the operatic Italian "UmbriaMusicFest."
Portsmouth residents are served by several newspapers and magazines:
- Port Folio Weekly
- New Journal and Guide
- Hampton Roads Business Journal
- Hampton Roads Magazine
DID YOU KNOW?
- Portsmouth is known as one of the "Seven Cities of Hampton Roads" (the other cities are Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach).
- In the early 19th century, Portsmouth was the first Hampton Roads community to receive railroad service.
- One of the best-known episodes in Portsmouth history occurred in 1862, when the CSS Virginia engaged the USS Monitor, in the first battle in history between two ironclad ships.