About PortsmouthBecause of the location's accessibility to water and a ready supply of timber for shipbuilding, Portsmouth earned a king's grant for settlement in 1620. Ownership alternated between the crown and mariners until it was re-patented in 1716 by Col. William Crawford, presiding justice of Norfolk County. Crawford donated the four corners of High and Court streets for a market, a jail, a courthouse and a church. The restored 1762 Trinity Episcopal Church is the town's oldest building.
Portsmouth was a strategic military objective in early U.S. conflicts. During the Revolution, after seven British vessels had bombarded and set fire to Portsmouth and the surrounding Tidewater areas, Benedict Arnold set up headquarters and the British line of defense on Hospital Point, then called Fort Nelson.
During the early months of the Civil War the Virginia Militia wrested control of the naval shipyard from the Union. After the Federal troops burned and abandoned Portsmouth, the Confederates raised the frigate Merrimac and turned it into the world's first ironclad battleship, the CSS Virginia.
Beginning as a marine yard in 1767, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard is the largest in the world. Besides the CSS Virginia, the shipyard produced the Chesapeake, the sister of the Constitution and one of the Navy's first warships.
The Olde Towne Historic District is distinguished by a fine collection of period homes with a rich diversity of architectural styles. The Art Deco marquee of the Commodore Theatre at 421 High St. is a local landmark. The theater, which was built in 1945, features first-run films and dining; phone (757) 393-6962.
Ferry service between Norfolk and Portsmouth resumed on the Elizabeth River in the early 1980s; the river was first crossed in 1636 by North America's first pedestrian ferry. The ferry is operated by Hampton Roads Transit; an information station is at North Landing, 6 Crawford Pkwy.
Visitor Centers Portsmouth Visitor Information Center 6 Crawford Pkwy. Portsmouth, VA 23704. Phone:(757)393-5111
Self-guiding ToursA brochure describing a walking tour of the Olde Towne Historic District is available from the visitor information center.
ShoppingCentered on High Street, the Olde Towne Historic District offers various small specialty shops, including antiques stores and art galleries.
Things to Do Children's Museum of Virginia
Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum
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