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Portsmouth was founded by Colonel William Crawford as a town in 1752 as an act of the Virginia General Assembly. It was named after Portsmouth, England, which is also a Naval port in England. In 1767, Andrew Sprowle, a ship builder, founded the Gosport Shipyard, the first operational drydock shipyard in the U.S.. In 1855 both Portsmouth and Norfolk suffered from a yellow fever epidemic that killed 1 out of every 3 citizens. In 1858 Portsmouth became a separate entity from Norfolk and was given independent city status. Today, Portsmouth has a population of 97,000 and is 33.2 square miles of land area.
The U.S. Navy has a large prevalence in this city also. They have the oldest operating Naval hospital in the nation located there and they have one of the largest shipyards in the world. The shipyard is the oldest industrial facility that belongs to the Navy.
Olde Towne is the most historical part of Portsmouth. The majority of the original houses and buildings are still standing today. Located right on the waterfront of the Elizabeth River, Olde Towne offers sightseeing, dining, museums, shopping, entertainment, arts, and culture.
If there isn’t enough to keep you busy in Olde Towne, you can take one of the 3 ferries that travel across the Elizabeth River over to the Norfolk Waterside District. They run on 30 minute intervals year round except during the peak season where they run every 15 minutes instead.
“Staples” of the Portsmouth Community:
The Commodore Theatre: This is a 1945 art deco style theatre that has been luxuriously restored. It offers a dining experience on the main floor of the auditorium where there is a phone ordering system on your table and your requests are taken directly by the kitchen.
The Bier Garden: A family owned German style, world renowned restaurant that has been open for over 18 years. They offer authentic family recipes and a beer menu that is unsurpassable. They have 23 taps, and over 400 different selections of brews.
Weekly Farmer’s Market: On the corner of Court and High Streets in Olde Towne Portsmouth, there is a weekly farmer’s market every Saturday morning. They showcase local produce, artisan breads, baked goods, jams and jellies, grass fed beef, free range poultry and eggs, and home made crafts.
Union Bank & Trust Pavillion: An outdoor concert venue that holds a capacity of 6,500 people. Its located right off of the Elizabeth River and next to one of boat marinas in Portsmouth. A variety of musical artists play there through the spring and summer each year.
The Children’s Museum: Offering all kinds of exhibits for fun and learning at the same time. There’s a planetarium, a bubble room, a train exhibit, and many other interactive hands-on activities.