1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Portsmouth (Virginia)
PORTSMOUTH, a city of Norfolk county, Virginia, U.S.A., on the Elizabeth river opposite Norfolk. Pop. (1910, census), 33,190. Portsmouth is served by the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Air Line, the Chesapeake & Ohio and the New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk (Pennsylvania system), the Southern, and the Norfolk & Western railways, by steamboat lines to Washington, Baltimore, New York, Providence and Boston, by ferries to Norfolk, and by electric lines to numerous suburbs. There is a 30-ft. channel to the ocean. Portsmouth is situated on level ground only a few feet above the sea; it has about 2½ m. of water-front, and adjoins one of the richest trucking districts in the Southern States. Among the principal buildings are the county court house, city hall, commercial building, United States naval hospital, post office building, high school and the Portsmouth orphan asylum, King’s Daughters’ hospital and the old Trinity Church (1762). In the southern part of the city is a United States navy yard and station, officially the Norfolk Yard (the second largest in the country), of about 450 acres, with three immense dry docks, machine shops, warehouses, travelling and water cranes, a training station, torpedo boat headquarters, a powder plant (20 acres), a naval magazine, a naval hospital and the distribution headquarters of the United State Marine Corps. The total value of the city’s factory products in 1905 was only $145,439. The city is a centre of the Virginia oyster “fisheries.” Portsmouth and Norfolk form a customs district, Norfolk being the port of entry, whose exports in 1908 were valued at $11,326,817, and imports at $1,150,044.
Portsmouth was established by act of the Virginia assembly in 1752, incorporated as a town in 1852 and chartered as a city in 1858. Though situated in Norfolk county, the city has been since its incorporation administratively independent of it. Shortly before the War of Independence the British established a marine yard where the navy yard now is, but during the war it was confiscated by Virginia and in 1801 was sold to the United States. In April 1861 it was burned and abandoned by the Federals, and for a year afterwards was the chief navy yard of the Confederates. Here was constructed the iron-clad “Virginia” (the old “Merrimac”), which on the 9th of March 1862 fought in Hampton Roads (q.v.) the famous engagement with the “Monitor.” Two months later, on the 9th of May, the Confederates abandoned the navy yard and evacuated Norfolk and Portsmouth, and the “Virginia” was destroyed by her commander, josiah Tattnall.