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Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Coordinates: 41°36′N 71°15′W / 41.600°N 71.250°W / 41.600; -71.250
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Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Town Hall
Town Hall
Location of Portsmouth in Newport County, Rhode Island
Location of Portsmouth in Newport County, Rhode Island
Coordinates: 41°36′N 71°15′W / 41.600°N 71.250°W / 41.600; -71.250
CountryUnited States
StateRhode Island
EstablishedMarch 7, 1638
 • Town CouncilKevin M. Aguiar (D), President
Len Katzman (D), Vice-President
Daniela T. Abbott (D)
Charles Levesque (D)
J. Mark Ryan (D)
David M. Gleason (R)
Keith E. Hamilton (R)
 • Town ClerkJennifer M. West
 • Total59.3 sq mi (153.6 km2)
 • Land23.2 sq mi (60.1 km2)
 • Water36.1 sq mi (93.5 km2)
203 ft (62 m)
 • Total17,871
 • Density770/sq mi (297.4/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code401
FIPS code44-57880[1]
GNIS feature ID1220065[2]

Portsmouth is a town in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 17,871 at the 2020 U.S. census. Portsmouth is the second-oldest municipality in Rhode Island, after Providence; it was one of the four colonies which merged to form the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the others being Providence, Newport, and Warwick.



According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 59.3 square miles (154 km2), of which 23.2 square miles (60 km2) (39.14%) is land and 36.1 square miles (93 km2) (60.86%) is water. Most of its land area lies on Aquidneck Island, which it shares with Middletown and Newport. In addition, Portsmouth encompasses some smaller islands, including Prudence Island, Patience Island, Hope Island and Hog Island. Part of the census-designated place of Melville lies within the town boundaries.

Portsmouth Compact memorial at Founder's Brook



Portsmouth was settled in 1638 by a group of religious dissenters from Massachusetts Bay Colony, including Dr. John Clarke, William Coddington, and Anne Hutchinson. It is named after Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. Roger Williams convinced the settlers that they should go there instead of settling in the Province of New Jersey, where they had first planned on going.

It was founded by the signers of the Portsmouth Compact. Its original name was Pocasset and it was officially named Portsmouth on May 12, 1639. It became part of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (see Aquidneck Island) and eventually part of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.





The Portsmouth School Department operates public schools:

  • Portsmouth High School
  • Portsmouth Middle School
  • Howard W. Hathaway Elementary School
  • Melville Elementary School
  • Prudence Island School (a Charter/Co-op "Home School" as of September 2009)





Portsmouth is home to the Portsmouth Business Park, as well as a few small plazas with a variety of businesses. Portsmouth is also home to the Raytheon Missiles & Defense division. Adjacent to Raytheon is the Newport Car Museum which opened in 2017 and receives 50,000 visitors a year.[3]



Portsmouth is the headquarters of US Sailing, the national governing body of sailing in the U.S.[4] It is also home to the Newport International Polo Series held at Glen Farm.[5]



On September 21, 2017, a plaque was unveiled by Roger Williams University, along with Al Gomes and Connie Watrous of Big Noise, at the Baypoint Inn & Conference Center honoring music icons The Beach Boys. The plaques were to commemorate the band's concert on September 22, 1971 in Portsmouth. The concert was the first-ever appearance of South African Ricky Fataar as an official member of the band and Filipino Billy Hinsche as a touring member, essentially changing the Beach Boys' live and recording act's line-up into a multi-cultural group. Diversity is a credo of Roger Williams University, which is why they chose to celebrate this moment in the band's history.[6]

Jimmy Buffett performed at the Sunset Cove restaurant on July 2, 2023, which was his final public performance before his death on September 1 of that year.[7]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[8][9]

2000 U.S. Census


The 2000 U.S. Census[1] reported that there were 17,149 people, or an increase of 1.7%, residing in the town. There were also 6,758 households, and 4,865 families recorded. The population density was 739.0 inhabitants per square mile (285.3/km2). There were 7,386 housing units at an average density of 318.3 per square mile (122.9/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 95.82% White, 1.17% African American, 0.19% Native American, 1.36% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 1.05% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.45% of the population.

There were 6,758 households, of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.1% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 25.2% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 26.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $88,835, and the median income for a family was $108,577. Males had a median income of $46,297 versus $31,745 for females. The per capita income for the town was $46,161. About 2.0% of families and 3.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.8% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.

2010 U.S. Census


The 2010 U.S. Census[1] reported that there were 17,349 people, or an increase of 1.15%, residing in the town. The racial makeup of the town was 94.57% White, 1.35% African American, 1.58% Asian, 0.21% American Indian or Alaskan Native, 0.04% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.40% of some other race, and 1.86% of two or more races.

In the town, 22.98% of the population was under the age of 18 and 16.47% were 65 years of age or older. Females made up 51.03% of the population.

Historic sites and points of interest


Notable people





  1. ^ a b c "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Portsmouth, Rhode Island
  3. ^ Most, Doug. "The Newport Car Museum is 'not only a car museum…it's an art museum'". Newport Car Museum. The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  4. ^ "United States Sailing Association - the national governing body for the sport of sailing". United States Sailing Association.
  5. ^ "Glen Farm - Polo and Equestrian Center - Homepage". Archived from the original on March 4, 2000. Retrieved August 21, 2008.
  6. ^ McGaw, Jim. "Friday, Sept. 22 will be 'Beach Boys Day' in Portsmouth". The Portsmouth Times.
  7. ^ Doiron, Sarah; Bell, Lauren (September 4, 2023). "Jimmy Buffett turned RI restaurant into his own 'Margaritaville' for final performance". WPRI.com. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  8. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  9. ^ Snow, Edwin M. (1867). Report upon the Census of Rhode Island 1865. Providence, RI: Providence Press Company.
  10. ^ Severo, Richard (March 14, 2007). "Betty Hutton, Film Star of 1940s and 1950s, Dies at 86". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "An historic strain of blood in America. Frances Latham--mother of governors". New Haven, Conn. 1908.
  12. ^ "Leadership | Bryant University". www.bryant.edu. Retrieved January 17, 2018.

Further reading

  • Garman, James E. (1996). Traveling Around Aquidneck Island 1890–1930. Portsmouth: Hamilton Printing. ISBN 0-9631722-6-3.
  • Pierce, John T. (1991). Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth. Portsmouth: Hamilton Printing. ISBN 0-9631722-0-4.