Introduction to Portsmouth, Virginia

Portsmouth is a city in southeastern Virginia situated on the Elizabeth River. The city is located less than three miles from the city of Norfolk. In fact the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, one of the Navy's premiere shipbuilding facilities, is actually located in Portsmouth. Major highways servicing Portsmouth include Interstates I-264 and I-664; as well as U.S. Routes 17 and 58.

Portsmouth's location as an East Coast deep water port has influenced its history throughout its centuries of growth. Founded as a town in 1752 by William Crawford, a wealthy merchant and ship owner, Portsmouth derived its name from the English naval port of the same name. In fact, many of the streets of the new town reflected its English heritage. The town suffered an epidemic of yellow fever in 1855 which killed 1 of every 3 citizens. Three years later it became an independent city, separating from Norfolk County. Portsmouth played a key role in the Civil War. In 1862, the Confederate ironclad warship CSS Virginia, rebuilt using the burned-out hulk of the former USS Merrimack, engaged the Union ironclad USS Monitor in the famous Battle of Hampton Roads. Until 1963 Portsmouth had served as the county seat of Norfolk County but in that year the County consolidated with the City of South Norfolk to form the new City of Chesapeake. Plans are currently being discussed to forge a measure of consolidation between the neighboring cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk.

Things to See and Do in Portsmouth

Portsmouth has lots of attractions, many of which are clustered within easy walking distance of each other. The Cedar Grove Cemetery, established in 1832, is the oldest city-owned cemetery in Portsmouth and is listed on the Virginia and national registers of historic sites. The Children’s Museum of Virginia includes a planetarium, a rock-climbing wall, a giant bubble-making station, and features the Lancaster Antique Toy and Train Collection, one of the most incredible model train collections in the world. The Naval Shipyard Museum contains a vast array of vessels from pleasure craft to carriers as well as an interesting collection of antique cannons. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum offers visitors the opportunity to feel what it's like to drive a stock car on a professional track or announce the play-by-play of an historic game from a broadcast booth. For performance arts, the city boasts the Commodore Theatre, a luxuriously restored 1945 Art Deco-style motion picture theater with upholstered seating and crystal chandeliers, which shows first-run movies while serving light dinners. One of Portsmouth's annual events is the TodiMusicFest, the American counterpart to the UmbriaMusicFest in Italy. The summer festival features lots of music and high quality entertainment.

Fans of pro sports in Portsmouth can root for a Class Triple-A minor league baseball team headquartered in neighboring Norfolk. The Norfolk Tides, who compete in the International League, serve as the principal farm team for Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles. Until 2007, the team had been a longtime affiliate of the New York Mets, an affiliation which lasted from 1969 to 2006. The Tides play their home games at Norfolk's Harbor Park. Also in Norfolk are the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League (AHL). The Admirals, a farm team of the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, play at the city's Norfolk Scope arena.


Total Population 96,135
Male Share of the Population 48.1%
Female Share of the Population 51.9%
Senior Citizens 13.6%
Employed Population 16+ 42,374
Age of the Population 35


% of people married 37.8%
Average household size 3

Education and Earnings

Population % with Bachelor Degree or Higher 20.8%
Median Earnings25+ $32,197
Median Earnings Without High School Qualification $18,679
Median Earnings With High School Degree $28,343


Median Family Income $54,547
% Above Poverty Level 81.8%
% Below Poverty Level 18.2%

Commute & Sprawl

Average Commute Time 24 minutes
% Working from Home 2.2%
% Walking and Biking to Work 4.2%
% Using Public Transportation 2.2%


People Living Alone 31.5%
Median Gross Rent $964
Median House Value $169,800


Other(often includes Hispanic and African American) 55.6%
US/American 0%
English 6.2%
Irish 5.9%

Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2015, www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/.

Portsmouth Almanac

Category Value
Nearest Large City 13 miles W of Virginia Beach, Virginia
Metro Area Norfolk - Virginia Beach - Newport News
Standard Zip Codes 23701, 23702, 23703, 23704, 23707, 23708, 23709
P.O. Box Zip Codes 23705
Phone Area Codes 757
Time Zone Eastern (-5 hours from GMT)
Daylight Savings The city observes Daylight Saving Time.
Latitude 36.82
Longitude -76.33

Portsmouth Climate

Nearest Weather Stations


  • Temp ranges are avg daily min and max for the month
  • Precipitation is rainfall (and rainfall equiv of snowfall)

Distance 9.1 miles
Jan Temp 32 to 48 F
Apr Temp 48 to 67 F
Jul Temp 71 to 87 F
Oct Temp 53 to 69 F
Annual Precip 45.7 inches
Distance 16.1 miles
Jan Temp 30 to 49 F
Apr Temp 47 to 70 F
Jul Temp 69 to 88 F
Oct Temp 50 to 71 F
Annual Precip 48.7 inches
Distance 25.2 miles
Jan Temp 32 to 50 F
Apr Temp 47 to 68 F
Jul Temp 70 to 87 F
Oct Temp 54 to 72 F
Annual Precip 45.9 inches

Nearby Cities and Towns

Location Population Median Family Income
Chesapeake 230,601 $78,923
Hampton 137,081 $60,693
Newport News 181,323 $58,040
Norfolk 245,452 $51,578
Suffolk 86,184 $75,719
Virginia Beach 448,290 $77,614

Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2015, www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/.

Portsmouth Public Libraries

Portsmouth Public Library
Portsmouth, Virginia
(757) 393-8365

library logo

More Information for Librarians

Portsmouth Hospitals

(Voluntary non-profit - Church)
(804) 398-2200
Emergency Service: Yes

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Portsmouth High Schools

(Sorted by Number of Students)

A Magnet School.
Serves 1,813 students.
Student/teacher ratio: 18.5

A Magnet School.
Serves 1,321 students.
Student/teacher ratio: 15.7

A Magnet School.
Serves 1,311 students.
Student/teacher ratio: 15.4

A Non-traditional School
Serves 140 students.

Study Online in Portsmouth
Historic Portsmouth


Old Court House c1905.

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Old Court House c1905.

Trinity Church c1905.

Court Street Baptist Church between 1900 and 1906

Additional Resources
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