Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Left to right from top: Aerial view of Portsmouth, Market Square, a naval fireboat in Portsmouth, Chestnut Street Arch and historic North Church.
Official seal of Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Location in Rockingham County and the state of New Hampshire.
Location in Rockingham County and the state of New Hampshire.
Coordinates: 43°4′32″N 70°45′38″W / 43.07556°N 70.76056°W / 43.07556; -70.76056
CountryUnited States
StateNew Hampshire
Incorporated (city)1849
Named forPortsmouth, Hampshire
 • MayorDeaglan McEachern
 • Assistant MayorJoanna Kelley
 • City Council
  • John Tabor
  • Josh Denton
  • Elizabeth Moreau
  • Andrew Bagley
  • Vincent Lombardi
  • Richard Blalock
  • Kate Cook
 • City ManagerKaren Conard
 • Total16.82 sq mi (43.57 km2)
 • Land15.66 sq mi (40.56 km2)
 • Water1.16 sq mi (3.01 km2)  6.92%
25 ft (8 m)
 • Total21,956
 • Density1,401.95/sq mi (541.31/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP codes
Area code603
FIPS code33-62900
GNIS feature ID0869312

Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. At the 2020 census it had a population of 21,956.[2] 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 protected by Fort William and Mary on what is now New Castle Island. Strategically located for trade between upstream industries and mercantile interests abroad, the port prospered. Fishing, lumber and shipbuilding were principal businesses of the region.[3] Enslaved Africans were imported as laborers as early as 1645 and were integral to building the city's prosperity.[4] Portsmouth was part of the Triangle Trade, which made significant profits from slavery.

Market Square in 1853
Portsmouth Harbor, New Hampshire by William James Glackens (1909)
Waterfront, 1917

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.[3]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[4] The legislature tabled their petition. New Hampshire abolished slavery in 1857, by which time the institution was effectively extinct in the state.

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.[3]

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.[3] 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 federal-style (neoclassical) 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".[7] 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,[8] a celebration dating back to 1977, produced by the non-profit Pro Portsmouth, Inc.

This emphasis on historic preservation and revitalization was the result of much pain and destruction. Portsmouth is largely walkable due to its network of streets and tight blocks filled with preserved Revolution-era homes. However, like many other cities all over the region (and nation), Portsmouth was hit by Urban Renewal, a planning tool used nationwide to provide Federal funds to address “urban blight” and revitalize downtown cores after decades of suburbanization and loss of tax revenue. An urban renewal district for Portsmouth was its North End neighborhood, which similar to Boston’s, was home to an Italian-American population.[9]

In 1964, federal funds were allocated to the North End project area in Portsmouth, for urban renewal. Prior to redevelopment, the North End was a mix of residential and commercial buildings, with many older houses converted into storefronts with apartments above. In the mid-1960s, the area was considered overcrowded, run down, and a fire hazard. As a result, the Portsmouth Housing Authority proposed the destruction of approximately 200 buildings, a school, and a church and redevelopment for commercial, industrial, and public use, rather than for residences. The project would displace approximately 300 families as a result. In 1968, Portsmouth Preservation Inc., a preservation organization was formed to attempt to save some of the historic building stock in the area slated for redevelopment. After bitter fighting and preservation advocacy, just fourteen houses were saved and mostly moved to an area known today as “The Hill”.[10] This preservation was only the beginning, and eventually efforts conspired to created the afformentioned historic district. Urban renewal was many events that led to its creation.

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

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.8 square miles (43.6 km2), of which 15.7 square miles (40.6 km2) are land and 1.2 square miles (3.0 km2), or 6.92%, are water.[14] Portsmouth is drained by Berrys Brook, 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.


Portsmouth has a humid continental climate[15] (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.[16]

Climate data for Greenland, New Hampshire (5 miles SW of Portsmouth)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 62
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 32.6
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 16.3
Record low °F (°C) −26
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.63
Average snowfall inches (cm) 17.1
Source 1: [17]
Source 2: [18]


Historical population

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 (525.5 people/km2). There were 10,625 housing units at an average density of 681.1 per square mile (263.0/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.[20]

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.[20]

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.[20]

For the period 2010–2014, 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.[21]


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.[22] 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,[23] the top ten employers in the city are:

# Employer Employees
1 US Dept of State Consular Center 1,300
2 Lonza Biologics 1,100
3 Liberty Mutual 1,000
4 HCA Hospital 1,000
5 City of Portsmouth 817
6 Bottomline Technologies 638
7 John Hancock 400
8 Service Credit Union 378
9 Amadeus 362
10 High Liner Foods 330

Arts and culture

The Portsmouth Downtown Historic District encompasses the city's historic urban core and Market Square.[24] The city has a vibrant restaurant culture. In 2023, it was reported that the city had 36,000 restaurant seats for a population of 22,000.[25]

Sites of interest

Street musicians perform across from North Church (July 2014)

Historic house museums

Governor John Langdon House


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.

Freedom Rugby Football Club is a men's rugby union team based in Portsmouth, founded in the summer of 2014. The club is an active member of USA Rugby and New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU).


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.[36] The candidate who receives the most votes is designated the Mayor (currently Deaglan McEachern), while the candidate receiving the second-highest vote total is designated the Assistant Mayor (currently Joanna Kelley). While the mayor and council convene to establish municipal policy, the City Manager (currently Karen Conard) oversees the city's day-to-day operations.[37]

Portsmouth city vote
by party in presidential elections[38]
Year Democratic Republican Third Parties
2020 72.53% 10,663 26.09% 3,836 1.37% 202
2016 66.57% 8,911 27.13% 3,632 6.30% 843
2012 67.38% 8,848 31.13% 4,088 1.49% 195
2008 70.19% 9,147 28.62% 3,729 1.19% 155
2004 66.24% 8,436 32.86% 4,185 0.90% 115
2000 59.93% 6,862 34.03% 3,896 6.04% 692
1996 62.03% 6,343 29.47% 3,014 8.50% 869
1992 51.71% 6,132 30.05% 3,563 18.24% 2,163
1988 51.99% 5,377 46.67% 4,827 1.33% 138
1984 46.93% 4,418 52.76% 4,967 0.32% 30
1980 39.60% 3,666 43.46% 4,023 16.94% 1,568
1976 49.89% 4,303 48.34% 4,169 1.77% 153
1972 44.81% 3,656 54.60% 4,455 0.59% 48
1968 53.80% 4,285 42.34% 3,372 3.86% 307
1964 70.43% 5,585 29.57% 2,345 0.00% 0
1960 51.88% 4,687 48.12% 4,348 0.00% 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.[39][40]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43]




See also: List of newspapers in New Hampshire in the 18th century: Portsmouth




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.

The Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST) operates a publicly funded bus network in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire and neighboring Maine including service in, to and from Portsmouth.[44] C&J is a private intercity bus carrier connecting Portsmouth with coastal New Hampshire and Boston, as well as direct service to New York City.[45] Wildcat Transit, operated by the University of New Hampshire, provides regular bus service to the UNH campus in Durham and intermediate stops. The service is free for students, faculty and staff and $1.50 for the general public.[46] Amtrak's Downeaster train service, is available in Dover and Durham, nearby to the northwest. Allegiant Air offers scheduled airline service from Portsmouth International Airport at Pease (PSM).[47]

Sister cities

Portsmouth's sister cities are:[48]

Portsmouth also has friendly relations with:[48]

Notable people

Main article: List of people from Portsmouth, New Hampshire

See also


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Portsmouth city, Rockingham County, New Hampshire: 2020 DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Coolidge, A. J.; J. B. Mansfield (1859). A History and Description of New England. Boston, Massachusetts: H. G. Houghton and Company. pp. 622–629.
  4. ^ a b Ring, Phyllis. "The Place Her People Made". The Heart of New England. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  5. ^ Robinson, J. Dennis. "Paul Revere's Other Ride". Seacoast NH History. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  6. ^ Bob Ruppert (September 5, 2017). "America's First Black Ops". allthingsliberty.com. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  7. ^ "Dozen Distinctive Destinations: Portsmouth, NH". Preservation Nation. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  8. ^ What is Market Square Day?
  9. ^ "URBAN RENEWAL PORTSMOUTH NH". Buildings of New England. Retrieved July 22, 2023.
  10. ^ "URBAN RENEWAL PORTSMOUTH NH". Buildings of New England. Retrieved July 22, 2023.
  11. ^ Sammons, Mark J.; Cunningham, Valerie (2004). Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage. Durham, New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire Press. pp. 32–33. ISBN 9781584652892. LCCN 2004007172. OCLC 845682328. Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  12. ^ Brewster, Charles W. "The Ship "America" and John Paul Jones". Seacoast NH. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  13. ^ "The Treaty of Portsmouth (Portsmouth Peace Treaty)". www.portsmouthpeacetreaty.org. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  14. ^ "2021 U.S. Gazetteer Files – New Hampshire". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  15. ^ "Portsmouth, New Hampshire Climate Summary". Weatherbase. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  16. ^ "Portsmouth, New Hampshire Temperature Averages". Weatherbase. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  17. ^ "NOAA NCEI U.S. Climate Normals Quick Access". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  18. ^ "Portsmouth, NH Monthly Weather". Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  19. ^ "Census" (PDF). United States Census. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 8, 2010. page 36
  20. ^ a b c "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Census Summary File 1 (DP-1): Portsmouth city, New Hampshire". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  21. ^ "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2010–2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (DP03): Portsmouth city, New Hampshire". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  22. ^ "Pan Am Clipper Connection". Archived from the original on January 11, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  23. ^ "City of Portsmouth CAFR" (PDF). City of Portsmouth. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 27, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  24. ^ "The Best Things to Do in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, From Black Heritage Landmarks to a Turkish Cafe". Condé Nast Traveler. June 17, 2022. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  25. ^ "Portsmouth NH: 36,000 restaurants seats and 22,000 population". Portsmouth Herald. November 15, 2023. Retrieved November 21, 2023.
  26. ^ Campbell, Ron (July 6, 2011). "Walk Portsmouth: Buckminster House". Walk Portsmouth. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  27. ^ "J Verne Wood Funeral Home – History". Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  28. ^ Keyes, Bob (January 23, 2016). "Maine sculptor Cabot Lyford dies at 90". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  29. ^ "10 Things You Didn't Know About The Music Hall". New Hampshire Magazine. February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  30. ^ "New Hampshire Theatre Project". Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  31. ^ "Pontine Theatre, Portsmouth, NH". pontine.org. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  32. ^ "Portsmouth Historical Society". Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  33. ^ "Prescott Park". prescottpark.org. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  34. ^ "Seacoast Repertory Theatre". seacoastrep.org. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  35. ^ Choate, David "Whaling Wall endangered Archived September 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine" September 14, 2010, Seacoast Online
  36. ^ "Portsmouth City Council, 2014 and 2015". City of Portsmouth. Retrieved June 6, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ Karen, Conard (February 12, 2020). "City Manager". City of Portsmouth. City of Portsmouth. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  38. ^ "Election Results". sos.nh.gov.
  39. ^ "House Members". New Hampshire General Court. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  40. ^ "Voting Districts". New Hampshire Secretary of State. Archived from the original on November 15, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  41. ^ "State General Election Results" (PDF). City of Portsmouth. November 8, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  42. ^ "Election Results". Portsmouth, New Hampshire City Clerk. Retrieved June 6, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ Emily Corwin (March 4, 2014). "Portsmouth City Council Unanimously Approves Gender Identity Protection". New Hampshire Public Radio. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  44. ^ "Moving Toward the Future". COAST. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  45. ^ "About Us". C&J. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  46. ^ "Route 4: Portsmouth". University of New Hampshire. January 2, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  47. ^ "Portsmouth International Terminal at Pease (PSM)". Allegiant Air. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  48. ^ a b "Sister and Friendship Cities". cityofportsmouth.com. City of Portsmouth. Retrieved May 10, 2021.

Further reading