About Portsmouth, Virginia


Portsmouth is located in the eastern region of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, which encompasses six other cities – Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News, Suffolk, Hampton and Virginia Beach. It is directly across from Norfolk. The city has a total area of approximately forty-seven square miles according to the United States Census Bureau. Thirty-three square miles of these are land and thirteen and half square miles is comprised of water. The city's population is about 101,377 people as of 2006.

As part of the harbor of Hampton Roads, Portsmouth has miles of waterfront land on the Elizabeth River. The city doesn't experience climatic extremes, but rather four moderate seasons. It has an annual average of forty-seven inches of rainfall with a snowfall of three inches and an annual average temperature of about sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, Portsmouth is typically south of the average path of storms coming from higher altitudes and north of the hurricanes and other tropical storms.

Official Portsmouth site

Visitor Info Portsmouth site


In 1620, what would eventually be known as Portsmouth, was recognized as a suitable area for shipbuilding by a shipbuilder named John Wood. He received a land grant from King James I of England and the surrounding area became a settled plantation community. In 1752, Colonel William Crawford, a merchant ship owner, founded Portsmouth as an act of the Virginia General Assembly and named it after the city in England by the same name. The four corners of High and Court Streets were devoted to a church, courthouse, jail and market. Just over one-hundred years later, Portsmouth suffered an epidemic of yellow fever – killing a third of the citizens. Soon after, it became an independent city.

Virginia joined the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Portsmouth's shipyard commander ordered the burning of the city's shipyard so that the Confederacy wouldn't take control, but the plan failed and they took over any way. Once the Union forces regained control of Portsmouth, they changed the name of the shipyard to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, because it was in Norfolk County at the time. This has caused some confusion today as it solely resides within Portsmouth's borders. As one of the older cities of Hampton Roads, Portsmouth still has a number of historic buildings intact. The Pass House, built in 1841 and occupied by Union Troops, is one of these still standing.


Many of Portsmouth's attractions are within walking distance of each other — conveniently located in the "Olde Towne" area of the city. This neighborhood offers a plethora of antique and boutique shops, upscale dining, a scenic waterfront and the largest group of historic homes between Alexandria, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina. The Children's Museum is a local favorite and draws many visitors each year. It has over ninety interactive exhibits sure to entertain kids of all ages. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is a 35,000 square foot family-friendly, hands-on facility that honors the state's inductees.

For historical entertainment – America's oldest and largest Naval Shipyard, located on Portsmouth's waterfront, has a popular museum that presents its history. The city also has a wildlife preserve at Hoffler Creek. It's in the Churchland region of the city and has a 142-acre sanctuary for wildlife. Additionally, Portsmouth has three venues for music and the arts: The NTelos Pavilion Harbor Canter – a 6,500 seat outdoor amphitheatre, Willett Hall – a 2,000 seat indoor facility and The Commodore Theatre – a 1945 restored movie theater, where you can dine while watching


The city's current public school system was established as an act of the General Assembly in 1869. Today, with an enrollment of approximately 15,250 students, Portsmouth Public Schools are located right in the heart of Hampton Roads. The city operates three high schools, three middle schools, fourteen elementary schools, two pre-k centers, one special education center, an alternative school, an adult learning center and a career and technology center. When first founded, there were two school division – one of which was taught in the basement of the old Court Street Baptist church, which still stands today.

There are also nine private schools in the city: Alliance Christian School, Christopher Academy, Court Street Academy, Crawford Day School, Montessori Preparatory School, Portsmouth Catholic Elementary School, Portsmouth Christian School, Tinker Bell Day Care School and Torah Day School. Tidewater Community College has a campus in Portsmouth and there are many other universities and colleges nearby. Some of these include: Old Dominion University, Christopher Newport University, Hampton University, Virginia Wesleyan College, and multiple Tidewater Community College campuses in Hampton Roads.