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Portsmouth is a city in the U.S. state of Ohiomarker and the county seat of Scioto Countymarker. The municipality is located on the northern banks of the Ohio River and east of the Scioto River in Southern Ohio. The population was 20,909 at the 2000 census.



Portsmouth's roots began in the 1790s when the small town of Alexandria was founded just west of where Portsmouth is today. Alexandria was flooded numerous times by the Ohio River and the Scioto River. In 1803, Henry Massie spotted a place to move the town away from the flood plains. He began to plot the new city by distributing the land and mapping the streets. Portsmouth was founded in 1803 and was established as a city in 1815. Alexandria soon disappeared.

Portsmouth quickly grew around an industrial base with the completion of the Ohio and Erie Canalmarker and the construction of the N&W railyards and the B&O junction. This greatly benefited Boneyfiddle (which is a west-end neighborhood in Portsmouth), where grand buildings were constructed with the wealth from the commerce. As time passed, much of the commerce began to move towards Chillicothe Street, which is still today the main thoroughfare of Portsmouth. While Boneyfiddle is receiving new life, it is a shadow of its former self.

Another notable part of Portsmouth's history in the 1800s was its importance on the Underground Railroad. It was located on a route that continued north to Detroitmarker and into Canadamarker.

Floods and floodwalls

Even though the city was on higher ground, it was still prone to flooding. The city had great deal of flooding in 1884, 1913, and 1937. After the flood of 1937, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed a floodwall protecting the city, which prevented two major floods in 1964 and 1997.

In 1992, the city of Portsmouth (instituted by then mayor Frank Gerlach) began honoring some of the many accomplishments of its area natives by placing a star on the Portsmouth Wall of Fame. Some of the honorees include Don Gullett, Al Oliver, and former United States Vice-President Dan Quayle, who was not a Portsmouth native.

In 1993, mural artist Robert Dafford began painting murals of Portsmouth's history on the city's floodwalls. Most of the mural project was finished around 2003, and a baseball mural honoring Portsmouth's baseball heroes was completed in 2006, including Branch Rickey. The newest mural honors the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV), a bicycle tour between Columbusmarker and Portsmouth over the past 40 years.


In 1907, the population of Portsmouth had reached 50,000. By 1950, the population had declined to approximately 36,000. High wages and foreign competition eventually caused most of the industry on which Portsmouth's economy was based to move out of the area. A major blow came in 1980 when the steel industry suspended local operations. With a current population of approximately 20,000, the city is not far removed from many small cities along the Ohio River valley, sharing many of the same problems in an era of unskilled labor outsourcing and population migration to more urban areas with the subsequent loss of both skilled and unskilled labor.


As of the census of 2000, there were 20,909 people, 9,120 households, and 5,216 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,941.4 people per square mile (749.6/km²). There were 10,248 housing units at an average density of 951.5/sq mi (367.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.50% White, 5.00% African American, 0.63% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.32% from other races, and 1.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.93% of the population.

There were 9,120 households out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.9% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.8% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 83.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,004, and the median income for a family was $31,237. Males had a median income of $31,521 versus $20,896 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,078. About 18.3% of families and 23.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.1% of those under age 18 and 14.5% of those age 65 or over.


A painting of the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto Rivers, showing the dissected plateau terrain and the Carl Perkins Bridge.
Artist Herb Roe

Portsmouth is at the confluence of the Ohio, Scioto and Little Scioto Rivers. Portsmouth is also a midway point between four major cities: Charlestonmarker, Cincinnatimarker, Lexingtonmarker and Columbusmarker, all of which are approximately ninety miles away (roughly a two hour drive). Much of the terrain is quite hilly due to dissected plateau around it. However, both rivers carve a river valley, making Portsmouth nestle between the Scioto and Ohio Rivers.

Indian Head Rock

The Indian Head Rock is an eight-ton sandstone boulder which until recently resided in the bottom of the Ohio River. The removal of the rock, which is now housed in a Portsmouth municipal building, has led the states of Kentuckymarker and Ohiomarker into a legislative battle to determine its ownership and disposition.

City parks

Portsmouth has fourteen parks for its residents and community use. These parks include Alexandria Park (Ohio and Scioto River confluence), Bannon Park (near Farley Square), Branch Rickey Park (on Williams Street near levee), Buckeye Park (near Branch Rickey Park), Cyndee Secrest Park (Sciotoville), Dr. Hartlage Park (Rose Street in Sciotoville), Labold Park (near Spartan Stadium), Larry Hisle Park (23rd Street & Thomas Ave.), Mound Parkmarker (17th & Hutchins Streets), York Park (riverfront), Spartan Stadium, Tracy Park (Chillicothe & Gay Streets), and Weghorst Park (Fourth & Jefferson Streets).


  • Sciotovillemarker-Located 5 miles east of Portsmouth off US 52 at Ohio 335.
  • Boneyfiddlemarker-Located just a couple blocks west of downtown Portsmouth at the Market St./2nd St. intersection.
  • Alexandria-Located at the Scioto River and Ohio River confluence at the Front St./Scioto St. intersection.
  • Rosemountmarker-Located 5 miles north of Portsmouth on US 23 and Old Scioto Trail.


City government

Portsmouth City Hall
The city charter was originally adopted on November 6, 1928. The city conducts business at their city hall which was constructed in 1935. City council meetings are held during the second and fourth weeks in the month. The city reverted from being run by a city manager to a mayor in 1988. The mayor is elected every four years. There are six wards in the city with elections of the wards every two years.

Ward City Councillor
First Ward Mike Mearan
Second Ward David Malone
Third Ward Bob Mollette
Fourth Ward Jerrold Albrecht
Fifth Ward John Hass
Sixth Ward Richard Noel

County government

Scioto County Courthouse
Portsmouth is the county seat for Scioto County. The courthouse is located at the corner of Sixth and Court Streets and was constructed in 1936. The county jail, once located in the courthouse, is now located in a new facility in the same location where the Norfolk and Western rail depot used to stand near U.S. 23. It was constructed in 2006.


Portsmouth was a city focused on industry and manufacturing until the 1970s, when a number of companies closed down their factories over labor issues and foreign influences. Since the closure of these factories, Portsmouth has suffered a loss of jobs and revenue. The city is currently trying to promote service businesses, with the Southern Ohio Medical Center currently being the biggest employer in the city of Portsmouth. Portsmouth is also home to the newest state university in Ohio, Shawnee State University. Shawnee State enrolls between 3,300 and 4,000 students, and grants Associate and Baccalaureate degrees. The school also issues a very limited number of Master’s Degrees. Much of the recent economic growth and change is based on service to SOMC and Shawnee State University.

In November 2002, the Portsmouth Uranium Enrichment Plant in nearby Piketon, Ohiomarker was recognized as an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society. It had served a military function from 1952 until the mid-1960s when the mission changed from enriching uranium for nuclear weapons to one focused on producing fuel for commercial nuclear power plants. The Portsmouth Uranium Enrichment Plant ended enriching operations in 2001 and began to support operational and administrative functions and perform external contract work. All uranium enrichment in the area has been taken over by a sister plant located in Paducah, Kentuckymarker. Uranium enrichment functions had previously been shared by the two plants. USEC interests in the area remain strong with the American Centrifuge Plant under construction in Piketon. This commercial uranium enrichment facility is expected to employ up to 500 people and reach an initial annual production level of 3.8 million SWU by 2012.

Portsmouth is also the home of Mitchellace Inc., the largest manufacturer of shoelaces in the world.


A nightly view of the newly built U.S.
Grant Bridge carrying U.S.
23 over the Ohio River.


Portsmouth is served by two major U.S. Routes: 23 and 52. Other significant roads include State Routes 73, 104, 139, 140, and 335.


Norfolk Southern offers a railyard for long distance shipping and is currently reopening the repair shops. Amtrak offers passenger service to the Portsmouth area under the Cardinal route between New York City and Chicago. The passenger stationmarker is located in South Shore, Kentuckymarker across the Ohio River. This is an unmanned station so tickets must be purchased online or if the train stops from the conductor.


Portsmouth also offers air services with the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airportmarker located in Minford, Ohiomarker, which is approximately 20 miles northeast of the city on State Route 335.

Public transportation

Public transportation for Portsmouth and its outlying areas is offered through Access Scioto County (ASC).


Colleges and universities

Portsmouth used to be home to Ohio University Southern Campus; however, it moved to Irontonmarker (Lawrence Countymarker) in the early 1980s. The former Ohio University buildings became home to Shawnee State Community College, which in 1986, through the diligent efforts of then Ohio House Speaker Vern Riffe became Shawnee State University, Ohio's thirteenth and newest institution.

K-12 schools

Mural in the lobby of the new high school, showing the school mascot Trojans.
Artist Herb Roe
Portsmouth has one public and one private school system. The Portsmouth City School Districtmarker has served the city since its founding in the 1830s and is the public school in the city. Portsmouth City School District is notable having a storied basketball tradition by winning four OSHAA State Basketball Championships in 1931, 1961, 1978, and 1988. The Trojan basketball team has made 13 final four appearances, they are 1925, 1926, 1927, 1929, 1931 (1st), 1934 (2nd), 1939, 1941, 1961 (1st), 1978 (1st), 1980 (2nd), 1988 (1st), & 1990 (2nd. The Trojan football team has also produced some notable teams as of late with the an Associated Press Division 3 State Champions in 2000, a regional title, and state semifinal appearance in 2000, and finishing as regional runner up in both 2001, and 2002. In all the Trojans football team has sent 5 teams to the post season since 2000, as of the start of the 2009 season.In 2000, Portsmouth voters passed a much needed school bond issue, which helped construct new schools for the district. The new schools opened for the 2006-2007 school year. These schools won the Grand Prize from School Planning & Management's 2007 Education Design Showcase. The award is awarded annually to the K-12 school that displays "excellence in design and functional planning directed toward meeting the needs of the educational program." In addition, the school system plans to build a new $10 million athletic complex.

Portsmouth Notre Dame HS
Notre Dame Schoolsmarker(formerly Portsmouth Central Catholic HS) have served the city's Roman Catholics and others who want a higher education since 1852. It is also notable for its football team founded in 1929. It has won two state championships in 1967 and 1970.


Buildings and landmarks

The recently renovated and historic, Columbia Music Hall.
Formerly The Columbia.
Unfortunately, the structure was destroyed by fire on Nov.
11, 2007
Many historical buildings in Portsmouth have been demolished because of poor upkeep, other city improvements, or the completion of other buildings that replaced the landmarks. Landmarks that have been demolished include the old Norfolk & Western rail depot, churches dating back to the early 1900s, houses that dated back to the 1850s, Grant Middle School, and currently the old Portsmouth High School and various elementary schools. Nevertheless, there are many buildings still standing in the city that date back to the early 1800s. Old churches still stand as a reminder of Portsmouth's past and identity. Along with the Columbia Theater, which was given a major facelift (the building has since been destroyed in a fire), other buildings include the old monastery, which can be seen for miles, Spartan Stadium, and numerous buildings in the Boneyfiddle Historic Districtmarker, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1982, students from Miami Universitymarker conducted research on several of Portsmouth's most important historic buildings. This work resulted in an exhibition at the Miami University Art Museum and a book entitled Portsmouth: Architecture in an Ohio River Town.

See also List of Registered Historic Places in Ohio, Scioto County

Portsmouth Public Library, the city's only public library, was founded in 1879; it has branch libraries throughout Scioto County. The Southern Ohio Museum, founded in 1979, has over sixty exhibits on display including artwork by Clarence Holbrook Carter and Jesse Stuart, Chinamarker dolls, Native American artifacts, and works by local artists.

Professional sports

Portsmouth had a series of semi-pro football teams in the 1920s and 1930s, the most notable being the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels, whose roster included player-coach Jim Thorpe. From 1929 to 1933, the city was home to the Portsmouth Spartans, which joined the National Football League in 1930. The Spartans competed in the first professional football night game, against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1930.. Despite their success, the team could not survive in the NFL's smallest city in the depths of the Great Depression; it was sold and moved to Detroitmarker in 1934, where it survives today as the Detroit Lions.

The Portsmouth Explorers were one of the original teams in the Frontier League, a non-affiliated minor league baseball organization. The Explorers played in the league's first three seasons, from 1993 to 1995. In 1938, Portsmouth was also the home of the Portsmouth Red Birds, a minor league team owned by the St. Louis Cardinals.

In the late 90's Portsmouth was home to the Superstar Wrestling Federation before its demise. More recently Revolutionary Championship Wrestling has made its home in Portsmouth airing on local TV station WQCW. Revolutionary Championship Wrestling in Portsmouth has featured such wrestling stars as Big Van Vader, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Demolition Ax, "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, "Wildcat" Chris Harris, and Ivan Koloff.


Portsmouth is a dividing line of numerous television markets, which includes the Columbusmarker, Cincinnatimarker, and Huntingtonmarker-Charlestonmarker markets. There are two local television stations in Portsmouth which is W66CZ - The Zone & WQCWmarker, a CW affiliate. Portsmouth is also served by the local PBS station, WPBO, which is a WOSU Columbus extension. Local radio stations WIOImarker, WNXTmarker, WPAYmarker, WZZZmarker, and WHRR-LPmarker serve the radio listeners in the city. Portsmouth is also served by three newspapers. The Portsmouth Daily Times is the city's only daily newspaper. The Community Common is a free biweekly newspaper and the Scioto Voice is a weekly newspaper, which is mailed to subscribers. The University Chronicle is the student-led newspaper at Shawnee State University.

Notable residents

Sister cities

See also


  1. USEC Portsmouth centrifuge plant project, USA
  2. Access Scioto County (ASC)
  3. OHSAA. "Ohio High School Athletic Association Web site
  6. Portsmouth Daily Times
  7. Community Common
  8. Scioto Voice
  9. University Chronicle

External links

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