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Portsmouth, New Hampshire
—  City  —
Market Square

Location in Rockingham County, New Hampshire
Coordinates: 43°4′32.6″N 70°45′38.7″W / 43.075722°N 70.76075°W / 43.075722; -70.76075
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Rockingham
Incorporated 1653
 - Mayor Tom Ferrini
 - City manager John P. Bohenko
 - Total 16.8 sq mi (43.5 km2)
 - Land 15.6 sq mi (40.4 km2)
 - Water 1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2)  7.03%
Elevation 20 ft (6 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 20,784
 - Density 1,331.3/sq mi (514.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 03801-03804
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-62900
GNIS feature ID 0869312

Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire in the United States. It is the fourth-largest community in the county,[1] with a population of 20,784 at the 2000 census. A historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination, Portsmouth is served by Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, formerly the Strategic Air Command's Pease Air Force Base.



Market Square in 1853

Native Americans of the Abenaki and other nations inhabited the territory of New Hampshire for thousands of years before European contact.

The first known European to explore and write about the area was Martin Pring in 1603. The village was settled by English immigrants in 1630 and named Piscataqua, after the Abenaki name for the river. Then the village was called Strawberry Banke, after the many wild strawberries growing beside the Piscataqua River, a tidal estuary with a swift current. Strategically located for trade between upstream industries and mercantile interests abroad, the port prospered. Fishing, lumber and shipbuilding were principal businesses of the region.[2] Enslaved Africans were imported as early as 1645 and were an integral part of building the city's prosperity.[3] Portsmouth was part of the Triangle Trade that made significant profits from slavery.

At the town's incorporation in 1653, it was named Portsmouth in honor of the colony's founder, John Mason. He had been captain of the port of Portsmouth, England, in the county of Hampshire, for which New Hampshire is named. In 1679, Portsmouth became the colonial capital. It also became a refuge for exiles from Puritan Massachusetts. When Queen Anne's War ended, the town was selected by Governor Joseph Dudley to host negotiations for the 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth, which temporarily ended hostilities between the Abenaki Indians and English settlements of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire.[2]

In the lead-up to the Revolution, in 1774 Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth warning that the British were coming.[4] Although the harbor was protected by Fort William and Mary, the rebel government moved the capital inland to Exeter, safe from the Royal Navy. The Navy bombarded Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) on October 18, 1775. African Americans helped defend Portsmouth and New England during the war. In 1779, 19 slaves from Portsmouth wrote a petition to the state legislature and asked that it put an end to slavery, in recognition of their contributions and in keeping with the principles of the Revolution.[3] Their petition was not answered then, but New Hampshire later ended slavery.

Thomas Jefferson's 1807 embargo against trade with Britain withered New England's trade with Canada, and a number of local fortunes were lost. Others were gained by men who acted as privateers during the War of 1812. In 1849, Portsmouth was incorporated as a city.[2]

Once one of the nation's busiest ports and shipbuilding cities, Portsmouth's wealth was expressed in fine architecture. It contains significant examples of Colonial, Georgian, and Federal style houses, a selection of which are now museums. Portsmouth's heart contains stately brick Federalist stores and townhouses, built all-of-a-piece after devastating early 19th century fires. The worst was in 1813 when 244 buildings burned.[2] A fire district was created that required all new buildings within its boundaries to be built of brick with slate roofs; this created the downtown's distinctive appearance. The city was noted for producing boldly wood-veneered Federalist furniture, particularly by master cabinet maker Langley Boardman.

Congress Street c. 1905

The Industrial Revolution spurred economic growth in New Hampshire mill towns such as Dover, Keene, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua and Rochester, where rivers provided power for the mills. It shifted growth to the new mill towns. The port of Portsmouth declined, but the city survived through its Victorian doldrums, a time described in the works of native son Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

With the protection of a Historic District Commission, much of the city's irreplaceable architectural legacy survives. It draws tourists and artists, who each summer throng the cafes, restaurants and shops around Market Square. In 2008, Portsmouth was named one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[5]

Portsmouth shipbuilding history has had a long symbiotic relationship with Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River. Naval hero John Paul Jones boarded at the Captain Gregory Purcell house, which now bears Jones's name and serves as the Portsmouth Historical Society Museum. During that time, Jones's ship Ranger was built on nearby Badger's Island in Kittery. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, established in 1800 as the first federal navy yard, is located on Seavey's Island in Kittery.[6] President Theodore Roosevelt arranged for the base to host negotiations leading to the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War.

Notable inhabitants

Old Custom House & Post Office (1860), designed by Ammi B. Young


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.8 square miles (43.5 km2), of which 15.6 sq mi (40.4 km2) is land and 1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2) is water, comprising 7.03% of the town. Portsmouth is drained by Sagamore Creek and the Piscataqua River. The highest point in the city is 100 feet (30 m) above sea level, within Pease International Airport.

The city is crossed by Interstate 95, U.S. Route 1, U.S. Route 4, New Hampshire Route 1A, New Hampshire Route 16, and New Hampshire Route 33.


Detail of the former Rockingham Hotel, rebuilt in 1885 by Frank Jones after the original structure burned

As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 20,784 people, 9,875 households, and 4,858 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,331.3 people per square mile (514.1/km²). There were 10,186 housing units at an average density of 652.5/sq mi (251.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.55% White, 2.13% African American, 0.21% Native American, 2.44% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 1.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.35% of the population.

There were 9,875 households out of which 20.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.8% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.8% were non-families. 38.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.04 and the average family size was 2.75.

18th-century slate headstones

In the city the population was spread out with 17.2% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 36.2% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $45,195, and the median income for a family was $59,630. Males had a median income of $41,966 versus $29,024 for females. The per capita income for the city was $27,540. About 6.4% of families and 9.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.3% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.

Sites of interest

View of Jefferson Street at the Strawbery Banke Museum
Wentworth-Gardner House (also called Wentworth House) (1760)
  • USS Albacore Museum & Park — a museum featuring the USS Albacore, a U.S. Navy submarine used for testing, which was decommissioned in 1972 and moved to the park in 1985. The submarine is open for tours.
  • The Music Hall — a 900-seat theater originally opened in 1878. The theater is now run by a non-profit organization and currently under restoration. The venue hosts musical acts, theater, dance and cinema.
  • New Hampshire Theatre Project - founded in 1986, a non-profit theater organization producing contemporary & classical works, and offering educational programs for all ages.[8]
  • Players' Ring - founded in 1992, a community theater to "promote the efforts of local artists through the production of original works."[9]
  • Pontine Movement Theatre — an interpretive theater group.[10]
  • Portsmouth Athenæum — a private membership library, museum and art gallery open to the public at certain times.
  • Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse — first established in 1771, the current structure was built in 1878 and is open for monthly tours from May through September.
  • Prescott Park Arts Festival — summer entertainments in Portsmouth's waterfront park.[11]
  • Seacoast Repertory Theatre — founded in 1988, a professional theater troupe.[12]
  • Strawbery Banke Museum — a neighborhood featuring several dozen restored historic homes in Colonial, Georgian and Federal styles of architecture. The site of one of Portsmouth's earliest settlements.

Historic house museums


Before its dissolution, Boston-Maine Airways (Pan Am Clipper Connection), a regional airline, was headquartered in Portsmouth.[13]

Sister cities

Portsmouth has five sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:

Friendship city:





See also


  1. ^ The Rockingham County towns (not cities) of Derry (34,021), Salem (28,112), and Londonderry (23,236) had greater populations as of the 2000 census.
  2. ^ a b c d A. J. Coolidge & J. B. Mansfield, A History and Description of New England; Boston, Massachusetts 1859
  3. ^ a b Phyllis Ring, "The Place Her People Made: Researcher Follows the Trail of African-American History in New Hampshire", The Heart of New England, accessed 2009-07-27
  4. ^ Paul Revere's Other Ride
  5. ^ 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations
  6. ^ The Ship America and John Paul Jones
  7. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Pontine Movement Theatre
  11. ^ Prescott Park Arts Festival
  12. ^ Seacoast Repertory Theatre
  13. ^ "Contact Us." Pan Am Clipper Connection. January 11, 2007. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  14. ^ The Wire

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

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PORTSMOUTH, a city, port of entry and one of the countyseats of Rockingham county, New Hampshire, U.S.A., on the Piscataqua river, about 3 m. from the Atlantic Ocean, about 45 m. E.S.E. of Concord, and about 54 m. N.N.E. of Boston. Pop. (1910 U.S. census) 11,269. Area, 17 sq. m. Portsmouth is served by the Boston & Maine railway, by electric lines to neighbouring towns, and in summer by a steamboat daily to the Isles of Shoals. The city is pleasantly"situated, mainly on a peninsula, and has three public parks. Portsmouth attracts many visitors during the summer season. In Portsmouth are an Athenaeum (1817), with a valuable library; a public library (1881); a city hall; a county court house; a United States customs-house; a soldiers' and sailors' monument; an equestrian t Island 'Portsmouth ' ?Cd'i .9?-?.  ?

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- Roint- -- s = P=I=T_= H = ? A=D= -_-- - - ---Island =r= b = o =ir- monument by James Edward Kelly to General Fitz John Porter; a cottage hospital (1886); a United States naval hospital (1891); a home for aged and indigent women (1877); and the Chase home for children (1877).

A United States navy yard, officially known as the Portsmouth Navy Yard, is on an island of the Piscataqua but within the township of Kittery, Maine. In 1800 Fernald's Island was purchased by the Federal government for a navy yard; it was the scene of considerable activity during the War of 1812, but was of much greater importance during the Civil War, when the famous " Kearsarge " and several other war vessels were built here.' In 1866 the yard was enlarged by connecting Seavey's Island with Fernald's; late in the 19th century it was equipped for building and repairing steel vessels. It now has a large stone dry dock. On Seavey's Island Admiral Cervera and other Spanish officers and sailors captured during the SpanishAmerican War were held prisoners in July - September 1898. Subsequently a large naval prison was erected. In 1905 the treaty ending the war between Japan and Russia was negotiated in what is known as the Peace Building in this yard.

In 1905 the city's factory products were valued at $2,602,056. During the summer season there is an important trade with the neighbouring watering-places; there is also a large transit trade in imported coal, but the foreign commerce, consisting wholly of imports, is small.

Portsmouth and Dover are the oldest permanent settlements in the state. David Thomson with a small company from Plymouth, England, in the spring or early summer of 1623 built and fortified a house at Little Harbor (now Odiorne's Point in the township of Rye) as a fishing and trading station. In 1630 there arrived another band of settlers sent over by the Laconia Company. They occupied Thomson's house and Great Island (New Castle) and built the " Great House " on what is now Water Street, Portsmouth. This settlement, with jurisdiction over all the territory now included in Portsmouth, New Castle and Greenland, and most of that in Rye, was known as " Strawberry Banke " until 1653, when it was incorporated (by the government of Massachusetts) under the name of Portsmouth. There was from the first much trouble between its Anglican settlers sent over by Mason and the Puritans from Massachusetts, and in 1641 Massachusetts extended her jurisdiction over this region. In 1679, however, New Hampshire was constituted a separate province, and Portsmouth was the capital until 1775. In 1693 New Castle (pop. 1900, 581), then including the greater part of the present township of Rye, was set apart from Portsmouth, and in 1703 Greenland (pop. 1900, 607) was likewise set apart. One of the first military exploits of the War of Independence occurred at New Castle, where there was then a fort called William and Mary. In December 1 774 a copy of the order prohibiting the exportation of military stores to America was brought from Boston to Portsmouth by Paul Revere, whereupon the Portsmouth Committee of Safety organized militia companies, and captured the fort (Dec. 14). In 1849 Portsmouth was chartered as a city.

Portsmouth was the birthplace of Governor Benning Wentworth (1696-1770) and his nephew Governor John Wentworth (1737-1820); of Governor John Langdon (1739-1819); of Tobias Lear (1762-1816), the private secretary of General Washington from 1785 until Washington's death, consul-general at Santo Domingo in 1802-1804, and negotiator of a treaty with Tripoli in 1805; of Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber (1814-1890), humorist, who is best known by his Life and Sayings of Mrs Partington (1854); of James T. Fields, of Thomas Bailey Aldrich and of General Fitz John Porter. From 1807 to 1816 Portsmouth was the home of Daniel Webster.

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