Hill House Portsmouth

Historic Sites


The Hill House

Four-story 1825 English basement home furnished entirely with original family belongings. It is evident from the furnishings that the Hill family were avid collectors and lived graciously over a period of 150 years. The house remains in its original condition, with limited renovation through the years.
221 North St. (757) 393-0241
Hours: Open Wednesdays only from noon-4:00 p.m. Call to make reservations for groups at other times.


Cedar Grove Cemetery

Established in 1832, Cedar Grove is the oldest city-owned cemetery in Portsmouth. Listed on the Virginia and national registers of historic sites, the cemetery is noted for its funerary art and the civic, business, maritime, religious and military leaders who are buried there. Historical markers placed throughout the cemetery allow for self-guided tours. Location: Cemetery is located between Effingham Street and Fort Lane in Olde Towne Portsmouth. Enter through the south gate to the cemetery, located behind Hardee's on London Boulevard.


Path of History

The "Path of History" links two of the nation's oldest Navy facilities, the Naval Medical Center and the Naval Shipyard, both in Portsmouth.

A 1-acre park is at the south end of the "Path of History," near the Naval Shipyard. The park has brick walkways and two 75,000-pound propellers from naval supply ships. Signs featuring key milestones in the Naval Shipyard's 200+ year history are displayed, along with various artifacts, such as a refurbished sail from a former submarine and Navy guns that were once used on vessels built at the shipyard.

The north end of the "Path of History" is a 3-acre park at the entrance to the nation's first Navy hospital. Located near the gate of the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, the park is home to artifacts and historical signs. This medical institution was built in 1830 and has served the military through every major conflict from that time to the present.

Stops between the two parks include the Fresnel Lens, historic homes like the Pass House and the Hill House, and places of worship, such as Chevra T'helim Temple and Court Street Baptist Church. Visit the entire "Path of History" or stop at various sites to learn about Portsmouth's history in a leisurely fashion.


Virginia Historical Markers:

Cornwallis at Portsmouth (N 36° 50.416 W 076° 18.094)
Lord Cornwallis, Commanding the British troops in the south, reached Portsmouth July 1781. He prepared to send a portion of his force to New York before the movement was made, orders came for him to take up a position at old point. Conwallis selected Yorktown, however, and Portsmouth was abandoned.

The Battle of Craney Island (4510 Twin Pines Rd., Portsmouth, VA)
The Battle of Craney Island, fought a year after a young United States declared war on Great Britain in June of 1812, became the battle that would save the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia from British invasion. U.S. forces built defenses around Craney Island and protected from 2,000 invading British soldiers aiming to destroy the port and its surrounding cities by land and sea. The Battle of Craney Island represents one of the few American won battles during the War of 1812. To learn more about the Battle of Craney Island, click here.

John Luke Porter (N 36° 50.124 W 076° 17.834)
John Luke Porter, first President of the Portsmouth common council, was born just two blocks south of here. An accomplished naval constructor, commissioned first by the United States and later by the Confederacy, Porter supervised, at the Norfolk Navy Yard, the conversion of the frigate Merrimac to the iron clad CSS Virginia. On 8 March 1862, the Virginia rammed and sank USS Cumberland and destroyed USS Congress at Newport News. The next day Virginia fought a historic but inconclusive battle with USS Monitor in nearby Hampton Roads, in the world's first naval combat between ironclads. Porter later became chief naval constructor for the confederacy, designing 21 ironclads. He died in Portsmouth.

Revolutionary War at Portsmouth (N 36° 50.153 W 076° 17.812)
In October 1775, Virginia's last Royal Governor, The Earl of Dunmore, made his headquarters at Gosport, one mile south of here. After his defeat at Great Bridge and the destruction of Norfolk, he entrenched at Hospital Point, one mile north, but was driven out in May 1776. Portsmouth was again invaded by the British: Sir George Collier in 1779, General Leslie in 1780. The traitor Benedict Arnold and General Phillips in 1881. Here, on this Portsmouth waterfront in August 1781, Lord Cornwallis embarked 7000 troops and sailed to Yorktown where he surrendered to the victorious American and French forces, 19 October 1781.

Fort Nelson (N 36° 50.415 W 076° 18.110)
On the site of Portsmouth Naval Hospital stood Fort Nelson. There, Virginia's Revolutionary government late in 1776 constructed the fort of timber and rammed with earth. Three years later, the British fleet commanded by Admiral Sir George Collier confiscated its artillery and supplies and destroyed most of the parapet. In 1779-1781, both Lord Cornwallis and General Benedict Arnold occupied the fort. It was reconstructed in 1799 of earth lined with brick, following a design by architect B. Henry Latrobe. Confederate government strengthened Fort Nelson, but on 10 May 1861 Union army occupied Norfolk and Fort Nelson.

Trinity Church (500 Court Street, Portsmouth, VA)
Built in 1762 as the parish church of Portsmouth parish established in 1761. Later named Trinity; enlarged in 1829; remodeled in 1893. Colonel William Crawford, founder of Portsmouth in 1752, was a member of the first vestry. Buried here is Commodore James Barron, commander of the U.S. frigate Chesapeake when attacked by H.M.S. Leopard in 1807; the result was his celebrated duel with Steven Decatur in 1820. The graves of many Revolutionary patriots are here.

Monumental Methodist Church (405 Dinwiddie Street, Portsmouth, VA)
This church, founded in 1772, is one of the oldest Methodist churches in Virginia. The first building was erected, 1775, at South and Effingham streets. The church was moved to Glasgow Street near Court in 1792. It established the first Sunday School in Portsmouth in 1818. Monumental was moved to this site, Dinwiddie Street, in 1831.

Watts House (517 North Street, Portsmouth, VA)
Built by Colonel Dempsey Watts in 1799 and inherited by his son, Captain Samuel Watts, who lived here until his death in 1878. Here Chief Black Hawk, of the Black Hawk Indian War, was entertained in 1820, and Henry Clay in 1844.

Additional Historical Marker resource: MarkerHistory.com