Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, NH - Market Square.JPG
Market Square
Portsmouth, NH Seal.png
Rockingham County New Hampshire incorporated and unincorporated areas Portsmouth highlighted.svg
Location in Rockingham County and the state of New Hampshire.
Coordinates: 43°4′32″N70°45′38″W / 43.07556°N 70.76056°W / 43.07556; -70.76056 Coordinates: 43°4′32″N70°45′38″W / 43.07556°N 70.76056°W / 43.07556; -70.76056
CountryUnited States
State New Hampshire
County Rockingham
Incorporated 1653
Incorporated (city) 1849
   Mayor Rick Becksted
  Assistant MayorJim Splaine
   City Council
  • Deaglan McEachern
  • Peter Whelan
  • Cliff Lazenby
  • Esther Kennedy
  • Petra Huda
  • John Tabor
  • Paige Trace
   City Manager Karen Conard
  Total16.82 sq mi (43.57 km2)
  Land15.66 sq mi (40.56 km2)
  Water1.17 sq mi (3.02 km2)  7.21%
20 ft (6 m)
(2019) [2]
  Density1,400.28/sq mi (540.66/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-62900
GNIS feature ID0869312
Website cityofportsmouth.com
Welcome sign in downtown Portsmouth Portsmouth, NH welcome sign IMG 2656.JPG
Welcome sign in downtown Portsmouth
Market Square in 1853 Market Square in 1853, Portsmouth, NH.jpg
Market Square in 1853
Congress Street (c. 1905) Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH.jpg
Congress Street (c. 1905)
Portsmouth Harbor, New Hampshire by William James Glackens (1909) Portsmouth Harbor New Hampshire William James Glackens.jpeg
Portsmouth Harbor, New Hampshire by William James Glackens (1909)
Waterfront, 1917 Portsmouth, New Hampshire (1917).jpg
Waterfront, 1917

Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 21,233, [3] and in 2019 the estimated population was 21,927. [4] A historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination on the Piscataqua River bordering the state of Maine, Portsmouth was formerly the home of the Strategic Air Command's Pease Air Force Base, since converted to Portsmouth International Airport at Pease.



American Indians of the Abenaki and other Algonquian languages-speaking nations, and their predecessors, inhabited the territory of coastal 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 Piscataqua River is a tidal estuary with a swift current, but forms a good natural harbor. The west bank of the harbor was settled by European colonists in 1630 and named Strawbery Banke, after the many wild strawberries growing there. The village was fortified by Fort William and Mary. Strategically located for trade between upstream industries and mercantile interests abroad, the port prospered. Fishing, lumber and shipbuilding were principal businesses of the region. [5] Enslaved Africans were imported as laborers as early as 1645 and were integral to building the city's prosperity. [6] Portsmouth was part of the Triangle Trade, which 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 English port of Portsmouth, Hampshire, after which New Hampshire is named.

When Queen Anne's War ended in 1712, Governor Joseph Dudley selected the town to host negotiations for the 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth, which temporarily ended hostilities between the Abenaki Indians and the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire. [5]

In 1774, in the lead-up to the Revolution, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth warning that the British Royal Navy was coming to capture the port. [7] Although Fort William and Mary protected the harbor, the Patriot government moved the capital inland to Exeter, which ensured that it would be under no threat from the Royal Navy, which bombarded Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) instead on October 18, 1775. Portsmouth was the destination for several of Beaumarchais's ships containing materiel, such as artillery, tents, and gunpowder, to help the American revolutionary effort. [8] African Americans helped defend Portsmouth and New England during the war. In 1779, 19 enslaved African Americans from Portsmouth wrote a petition to the state legislature and asked that it abolish slavery, in recognition of their war contributions and in keeping with the principles of the Revolution. [6] Their petition was not answered, but New Hampshire later abolished slavery.

Thomas Jefferson's 1807 embargo against American trade with Britain severely disrupted New England's trade with Canada, and several local businessmen went bankrupt. Portsmouth was host to numerous privateers during the War of 1812. In 1849, Portsmouth was incorporated as a city. [5]

Once one of the nation's busiest ports and shipbuilding cities, Portsmouth expressed its wealth in fine architecture. It has significant examples of Colonial, Georgian, and Federal style houses, some of which are now museums. Portsmouth's heart has 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. [5] 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 also noted for the production of boldly wood-veneered Federalist furniture, particularly by the master cabinet maker Langley Boardman.

The Industrial Revolution spurred economic growth in New Hampshire mill towns such as Dover, Keene, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua and Rochester, where rivers provided water power for the mills. It shifted growth to the new mill towns. The port of Portsmouth declined, but the city survived Victorian-era doldrums, a time described in the works of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, particularly in his 1869 novel The Story of a Bad Boy .

In the 20th century, the city founded a Historic District Commission, which has worked to protect much of the city's irreplaceable architectural legacy. In 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Portsmouth one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations". [9] The compact and walkable downtown on the waterfront draws tourists and artists, who each summer throng the cafes, restaurants and shops around Market Square. Portsmouth annually celebrates the revitalization of its downtown (in particular Market Square) with Market Square Day, [10] a celebration dating back to 1977, produced by the non-profit Pro Portsmouth, Inc.

Portsmouth shipbuilding history has had a long symbiotic relationship with Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River. In 1781–1782, the naval hero John Paul Jones lived in Portsmouth while he supervised construction of his ship Ranger, which was built on nearby Badger's Island in Kittery. During that time, he boarded at the Captain Gregory Purcell house, which now bears Jones' name, as it is the only surviving property in the United States associated with him. Built by the master housewright Hopestill Cheswell, an African American, [11] it has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It now serves as the Portsmouth Historical Society Museum.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, established in 1800 as the first federal navy yard, is on Seavey's Island in Kittery, Maine. [12] The base is famous for being the site of the 1905 signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth [13] which ended the Russo-Japanese War. Though US President Theodore Roosevelt orchestrated the peace conference that brought Russian and Japanese diplomats to Portsmouth and the Shipyard, he never came to Portsmouth, relying on the Navy and people of New Hampshire as the hosts. Roosevelt won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomacy in bringing about an end to the War.


Portsmouth downtown from I-95 PORTSMOUTH NH.jpg
Portsmouth downtown from I-95

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.8 square miles (43.6 km2), of which 15.6 square miles (40.5 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2), or 7.21%, is water. [3] Portsmouth is drained by Sagamore Creek and the Piscataqua River, which is the boundary between New Hampshire and Maine. The highest point in the city is 110 feet (34 m) 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. Boston is 55 miles (89 km) to the south, Portland, Maine, is 53 miles (85 km) to the northeast, and Dover, New Hampshire, is 13 miles (21 km) to the northwest.

Adjacent municipalities


Portsmouth has a humid continental climate [14] (Dfb) in spite of its maritime position, due to prevailing inland winds. Summers are moderately warm with winter days averaging around the freezing point, but with cold nights bringing it below the required −3 °C (27 °F) isotherm to have a humid continental climate. With high year-round precipitation, the cold winters can often be very snowy and summers wet. [15]

Climate data for Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Record high °F (°C)62
Average high °F (°C)34
Average low °F (°C)15
Record low °F (°C)−26
Average precipitation inches (mm)3.61
Average snowfall inches (cm)16.7
Source 1: [15]
Source 2: [16]


Historical population
1790 4,720
1800 5,33913.1%
1810 6,93429.9%
1820 7,3275.7%
1830 8,0269.5%
1840 7,887−1.7%
1850 9,73823.5%
1860 9,335−4.1%
1870 9,211−1.3%
1880 9,6905.2%
1890 9,8271.4%
1900 10,6378.2%
1910 11,2695.9%
1920 13,56920.4%
1930 14,4956.8%
1940 14,8212.2%
1950 18,83027.0%
1960 26,90042.9%
1970 25,717−4.4%
1980 26,2542.1%
1990 25,925−1.3%
2000 20,784−19.8%
2010 21,2332.2%
2019 (est.)21,927 [2] 3.3%
sources: [3] [17]

Portsmouth is the sole city in Rockingham County, but the fourth-largest municipality, with fewer people than the towns of Derry, Londonderry, and Salem.

As of the census of 2010, there were 21,233 people, 10,014 households, and 4,736 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,361.1 people per square mile (524.4/km2). There were 10,625 housing units at an average density of 681.1 per square mile (262.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.5% White, 1.7% African American, 0.2% Native American, 3.5% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.7% some other race, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.8% of the population. [18]

There were 10,014 households, out of which 20.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.5% were headed by married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 52.7% were non-families. 39.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.8% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.03, and the average family size was 2.75. [18]

In the city, the population was spread out, with 16.6% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.6 males. [18]

For the period 2010–14, the city's estimated median annual household income was $67,679, and the median family income was $90,208. Male full-time workers had a median income of $58,441 versus $45,683 for females. The city's per capita income for the city was $42,724. About 4.0% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.9% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over. [19]

Government and politics

The city of Portsmouth operates under a council-manager system of government. Portsmouth elects a nine-member at-large City Council to serve as the city's primary legislative body. [20] The candidate who receives the most votes is designated the Mayor (currently Rick Becksted), while the candidate receiving the second-highest vote total is designated the Assistant Mayor (currently James R. Splaine). While the mayor and council convene to establish municipal policy, the City Manager (currently Karen Conard) oversees the city's day-to-day operations. [21]

Portsmouth city vote
by party in presidential elections [22]
Year Democratic Republican Third Parties
2020 72.53%10,66326.09% 3,8361.37% 202
2016 66.57%8,91127.13% 3,6326.30% 843
2012 67.38%8,84831.13% 4,0881.49% 195
2008 70.19%9,14728.62% 3,7291.19% 155
2004 66.24%8,43632.86% 4,1850.90% 115
2000 59.93%6,86234.03% 3,8966.04% 692
1996 62.03%6,34329.47% 3,0148.50% 869
1992 51.71%6,13230.05% 3,56318.24% 2,163
1988 51.99%5,37746.67% 4,8271.33% 138
1984 46.93% 4,41852.76%4,9670.32% 30
1980 39.60% 3,66643.46%4,02316.94% 1,568
1976 49.89%4,30348.34% 4,1691.77% 153
1972 44.81% 3,65654.60%4,4550.59% 48
1968 53.80%4,28542.34% 3,3723.86% 307
1964 70.43%5,58529.57% 2,3450.00% 0
1960 51.88%4,68748.12% 4,3480.00% 0

Portsmouth is part of New Hampshire's 1st congressional district, currently represented by Democrat Chris Pappas. Portsmouth is part of the Executive Council's 3rd district, currently represented by Republican Janet Stevens. In the State Senate, Portsmouth is represented by Democrat Rebecca Perkins Kwoka. In the State House of Representatives, Portsmouth is divided among the 25th through 31st Rockingham districts. [23] [24]

Politically, Portsmouth is a center of liberal politics and a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican presidential nominee to carry the city in his 1984 landslide reelection. In 2016, Portsmouth voted 67.70% for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, 62.53% for Colin Van Ostern in the gubernatorial election, 64.48% for Maggie Hassan in the senatorial election, and 62.16% for Carol Shea-Porter in the congressional election. [25] In 2014, Portsmouth voted 70.05% for Maggie Hassan in the gubernatorial election, 67.34% for Jeanne Shaheen in the senatorial election, and 68.34% for Carol Shea-Porter in the congressional election. In 2012, Portsmouth voted 67.56% for Barack Obama in the presidential election, 70.16% for Maggie Hassan in the gubernatorial election, and 68.50% for Carol Shea-Porter in the congressional election. [26]

In March 2014, Portsmouth became the first municipality in New Hampshire to implement protections for city employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, by a 9–0 vote of the city council. [27]

Sites of interest

Memorial Bridge Memorial Bridge Portsmouth, NH.JPG
Memorial Bridge
Historic North Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in downtown Portsmouth; the steeple is visible throughout the community. North Church (Portsmouth, NH) 2014 IMG 2668.JPG
Historic North Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in downtown Portsmouth; the steeple is visible throughout the community.
Street musicians perform across from North Church (July 2014) Street musicians in Portsmouth, NH IMG 2667.JPG
Street musicians perform across from North Church (July 2014)

Historic house museums


Jefferson Street at the Strawbery Banke Museum JeffersonSt.jpg
Jefferson Street at the Strawbery Banke Museum

Heinemann USA is based in Portsmouth. Before its dissolution, Boston-Maine Airways (Pan Am Clipper Connection), a regional airline, was also headquartered in Portsmouth. [36] Companies with headquarters in Portsmouth include packaged software producer Bottomline Technologies and frozen yogurt maker Sweet Scoops.

Top employers

According to the city's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, [37] the top ten employers in the city are:

1 US Dept of State Consular Center 1,300
2 Lonza Biologics 1,100
3 Liberty Mutual 1,000
4 HCA Hospital 1,000
5City of Portsmouth817
6Bottomline Technologies638
7 John Hancock 400
8 Service Credit Union 378
9 Amadeus 362
10 High Liner Foods 330
Former Rockingham Hotel, rebuilt in 1885 by Frank Jones after the original structure burned Portsmouth, NH - Rockingham Hotel detail 2.JPG
Former Rockingham Hotel, rebuilt in 1885 by Frank Jones after the original structure burned






The Seacoast United Phantoms are a soccer team based in Portsmouth. Founded in 1996, the team plays in the Northeast Division of USL League Two (USL2), one of the unofficial fourth tier leagues of the American Soccer Pyramid.

Sister cities

Portsmouth's sister cities are: [38]

Portsmouth also has friendly relations with: [38]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

New Hampshire State of the United States

New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. Of the 50 U.S. states, New Hampshire is the fifth smallest by area and the tenth least populous, with a little over 1.3 million residents. Concord is the state capital, while Manchester is the largest city. New Hampshire's motto, "Live Free or Die", reflects its role in the American Revolutionary War; its nickname, "The Granite State", refers to its extensive granite formations and quarries. It is best known nationwide for holding the first primary in the U.S. presidential election cycle, giving rise to the phrase, "As New Hampshire goes, so goes the nation".

Rockingham County, New Hampshire U.S. county in New Hampshire

Rockingham County is a county in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. As of the 2020 census, the population was 314,176, making it New Hampshire's second-most populous county. The county seat is Brentwood. Rockingham County is part of the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metropolitan Statistical Area and the greater Boston-Worcester-Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT Combined Statistical Area. Per the 2020 census, it was New Hampshire's fastest growing county from 2010-2020.

York County, Maine County in Maine, US

York County is the southwesternmost county in the U.S. state of Maine, along the state of New Hampshire's eastern border. It is divided from Strafford County, New Hampshire, by the Salmon Falls River, and the connected tidal estuary—the Piscataqua River.

Eliot, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Eliot is a town in York County, Maine, United States. Originally settled in 1623, it was formerly a part of Kittery, Maine to its east. After Kittery it is the next most southern town in the state of Maine, lying on the Piscataqua River across from Portsmouth and Newington, New Hampshire. The population was 6,204 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine metropolitan statistical area.

Kittery Point, Maine Census-designated place in Maine, United States

Kittery Point is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Kittery, York County, Maine, United States. First settled in 1623, Kittery Point traces its history to the first seafarers who colonized the shore of what became Massachusetts Bay Colony and later the State of Maine. Located beside the Atlantic Ocean, it is home to Fort McClary State Historic Site, and Fort Foster Park on Gerrish Island. Cutts Island is home to Seapoint Beach and the Brave Boat Harbor Division of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

New Castle, New Hampshire Place in New Hampshire, United States

New Castle is a town in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 968 at the 2010 census. It is the smallest and easternmost town in New Hampshire, and the only one located entirely on islands. It is home to Fort Constitution Historic Site, Fort Stark Historic Site, and the New Castle Common, a 31-acre (13 ha) recreation area on the Atlantic Ocean. New Castle is also home to a United States Coast Guard station, as well as the historic Wentworth by the Sea hotel.

Rye, New Hampshire Town in New Hampshire, United States

Rye is a town in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 5,298 at the 2010 census. The town is home to several state parks along the Atlantic coastline.

Dover, New Hampshire City in New Hampshire, United States

Dover is a city in Strafford County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 32,741 at the 2020 census, the largest in the New Hampshire Seacoast region and the 4th largest city in the state of New Hampshire. It is the county seat of Strafford County, and home to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, the Woodman Institute Museum, and the Children's Museum of New Hampshire.

Exeter, New Hampshire Place in New Hampshire, United States

Exeter is a town in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 14,306 at the 2010 census and an estimated 15,317 in 2018. Exeter was the county seat until 1997, when county offices were moved to neighboring Brentwood. Home to the Phillips Exeter Academy, a private university-preparatory school, Exeter is situated where the Exeter River feeds the tidal Squamscott River.

Kittery, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Kittery is a town in York County, Maine, United States. Home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Seavey's Island, Kittery includes Badger's Island, the seaside district of Kittery Point, and part of the Isles of Shoals. The town is a tourist destination known for its many outlet stores. It is the southernmost town in Maine.

Piscataqua River River in Maine and New Hampshire, United States

The Piscataqua River is a 12-mile-long (19 km) tidal river forming the boundary of the U.S. states of New Hampshire and Maine from its origin at the confluence of the Salmon Falls River and Cocheco River. The drainage basin of the river is approximately 1,495 square miles (3,870 km2), including the subwatersheds of the Great Works River and the five rivers flowing into Great Bay: the Bellamy, Oyster, Lamprey, Squamscott, and Winnicut.

Seacoast Region (New Hampshire)

The Seacoast Region is the southeast area of the U.S. state of New Hampshire that includes the eastern portion of Rockingham County and the southern portion of Strafford County. The region stretches 13 miles (21 km) along the Atlantic Ocean from New Hampshire's border with Salisbury, Massachusetts, to the Piscataqua River and New Hampshire's border with Kittery, Maine. The shoreline alternates between rocky and rough headlands and areas with sandy beaches. Some of the beaches are bordered by jetties or groins, particularly in the towns of Rye and Hampton. The Seacoast Region includes some inland towns as well, as far west as Epping and as far north as Rochester.

Interstate 95 (I-95), the main Interstate Highway on the east coast of the United States, passes through the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire. The highway is also known as the Blue Star Turnpike or New Hampshire Turnpike, a toll road maintained by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) Bureau of Turnpikes. Running 16.31 miles (26.25 km) from the Massachusetts border to the Piscataqua River Bridge at the Maine state line, New Hampshire's portion of I-95 is the shortest of any state that the interstate passes through. Interstate 95 traverses six municipalities in New Hampshire: Seabrook, Hampton Falls, Hampton, North Hampton, Greenland, and Portsmouth. The highway is the main thoroughfare between urban areas in Massachusetts and points in Maine.

U.S. Route 1 Bypass (Portsmouth, New Hampshire–Kittery, Maine)

U.S. Route 1 Bypass is a 4.3-mile-long (6.9 km) bypass of U.S. Route 1 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine. Most of its north section, northeast of the Portsmouth Traffic Circle where it meets the Blue Star Turnpike and Spaulding Turnpike, is built to rudimentary freeway standards, with no cross traffic but driveway access. The southern portion is similarly constructed, although there are two four-way intersections with traffic lights just south of the circle and a third at its south end, just before intersecting with US 1.

Sarah Mildred Long Bridge

The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is a lift bridge spanning the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine, carrying traffic of U.S. Route 1 Bypass. An original bridge by the same name was in operation from 1940 until 2016. A replacement span opened in March 2018.

The Portsmouth Traffic Circle is a four-point rotary in the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Piscataqua River Bridge

The Piscataqua River Bridge is a through arch bridge that crosses the Piscataqua River, connecting Portsmouth, New Hampshire with Kittery, Maine. Carrying six lanes of Interstate 95, the bridge is the third modern span and first fixed crossing of the Piscataqua between Portsmouth and Kittery. The two other spans, the Memorial Bridge and the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, are both lift bridges, built to accommodate ship traffic along the Piscataqua. The high arch design of the Piscataqua River Bridge eliminates the need for a movable roadway.

Memorial Bridge (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) Vertical-lift bridge across the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Badgers Island in Kittery, Maine

The World War I Memorial Bridge is a vertical-lift bridge that carries U.S. Route 1 across the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Badger's Island in Kittery, Maine, United States. The current bridge was opened in 2013, replacing a bridge of similar design that existed from 1923 to 2012. A large overhead plaque carried over from the original reads "Memorial to the Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who gave their lives in the World War 1917–1919."

In the U.S. state of New Hampshire, U.S. Route 1 is a north–south state highway through Hampton and Portsmouth. It lies between Interstate 95 and New Hampshire Route 1A.

Gundalow Ship type

A gundalow is a type of flat-bottomed sailing barge once common in Maine and New Hampshire rivers. It first appeared in the mid-1600s, reached maturity of design in the 1700 and 1800s, and lingered into the early 1900s before nearly vanishing as a commercial watercraft.


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  38. 1 2 "Sister and Friendship Cities". cityofportsmouth.com. City of Portsmouth. Retrieved May 10, 2021.

Further reading