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Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham Countymarker, New Hampshiremarker in the United Statesmarker. It is the fourth-largest community in the county,The Rockingham County towns (not cities) of Derrymarker (34,021), Salemmarker (28,112), and Londonderrymarker (23,236) had greater populations as of the 2000 census. 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 Peasemarker, formerly the Strategic Air Command's Pease Air Force Basemarker.


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 Bankemarker, 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. Enslaved Africans were imported as early as 1645 and were an integral part of building the city's prosperity. 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 Portsmouthmarker, Englandmarker, 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 Massachusettsmarker. 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.

In the lead-up to the Revolution, in 1774 Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth warning that the British were coming. Although the harbor was protected by Fort William and Marymarker, the rebel government moved the capital inland to Exetermarker, safe from the Royal Navy. The Navy bombarded Falmouth (now Portland, Mainemarker) 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. Their petition was not answered then, but New Hampshire later ended slavery.

Thomas Jefferson's 1807 embargo against trade with Britainmarker withered New England's trade with Canadamarker, 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.

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. 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.

The Industrial Revolution spurred economic growth in New Hampshire mill towns such as Dovermarker, Keenemarker, Laconiamarker, Manchestermarker, Nashuamarker and Rochestermarker, 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.

Portsmouth shipbuilding history has had a long symbiotic relationship with Kittery, Mainemarker, across the Piscataqua River. Naval hero John Paul Jones boarded at the Captain Gregory Purcell housemarker, 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 Islandmarker in Kittery. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyardmarker, established in 1800 as the first federal navy yard, is located on Seavey's Islandmarker in Kittery. President Theodore Roosevelt arranged for the base to host negotiations leading to the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War.

Image:Jackson House, Portsmouth, NH.jpg|Jackson Housemarker (1664) as it appeared in 1909Image:The Warner House, Portsmouth, NH.jpg|Warner Housemarker (1716) in 1902Image:Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, Portsmouth, NH.jpg|Wentworth-Coolidge Mansionmarker (1750) in 1902Image:The Moffatt-Ladd House, Portsmouth, NH.jpg|Moffatt-Ladd Housemarker (1763) in 1905

Notable inhabitants


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which is land and 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 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.


As of the census 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.

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

  • USS Albacore Museum & Park — a museum featuring the USS Albacoremarker, 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 Hallmarker — 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.
  • Players' Ring - founded in 1992, a community theater to "promote the efforts of local artists through the production of original works."
  • Pontine Movement Theatre — an interpretive theater group.
  • Portsmouth Athenæummarker — a private membership library, museum and art gallery open to the public at certain times.
  • Portsmouth Harbor Lighthousemarker — 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.
  • Seacoast Repertory Theatre — founded in 1988, a professional theater troupe.
  • Strawbery Banke Museummarker — 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


Prior to its dissolution, Boston-Maine Airways (Pan Am Clipper Connection), a regional airline, was headquartered in Portsmouth.

Sister cities

Friendship city:





See also


  1. A. J. Coolidge & J. B. Mansfield, A History and Description of New England; Boston, Massachusetts 1859
  2. 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
  3. Paul Revere's Other Ride
  4. 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations
  5. The Ship America and John Paul Jones
  6. [1]
  7. [2]
  8. Pontine Movement Theatre
  9. Prescott Park Arts Festival
  10. Seacoast Repertory Theatre
  11. " Contact Us." Pan Am Clipper Connection. January 11, 2007. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  12. The Wire

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