Rich Maritime History
Welcome to Portsmouth, Virginia, one of America’s most historic seaports. Our vast maritime history began over 400 years ago when in 1608 Captain John Smith first explored the land that would one day become Portsmouth. Soon after, a shipbuilder named John Wood recognized the harbor as a suitable location for shipbuilding and petitioned King James for a land grant on July 12, 1620. In fact, the majority of our history stems from our maritime roots and our prime location on the Elizabeth River, named by the colonists in Jamestown in the early 17th century for the daughter of King James I of England and a sister of the later King Charles I, Princess Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen of Bohemia. Our riverfront area, known today as “Olde Towne” was originally ruled by the British and named after the thriving British naval seaport of Portsmouth, England.
Today our maritime heritage is still an important part of Portsmouth. Olde Towne includes both the oldest operating US Naval Hospital and the first operational dry dock facility in the United States. Portsmouth also holds the proud distinction of being an official US Coast Guard City with ships from the 5th Coast Guard District stationed here. With 90 miles of shoreline as well as being Mile Post Zero on the Intracoastal Waterway, residents and visitors alike can enjoy being on the bustling Elizabeth River and watching a maritime community in action.