Experience the best of the best with this Top 8 list of things to do and see in Portsmouth.
Walk through history and see Olde Towne’s origins and it’s continued evolution.
Plan for your visit and explore Portsmouth with the Visitor Directory.
By: Audrey Lassiter, Hill Hour Volunteer
During the month of April, The Hill House Museum presents Picture This! a curated photography exhibition of Portsmouth, Virginia
featuring over 600 pictures, memorabilia, and historic maps. Take a journey through Portsmouth’s past
with images of Downtown, Olde Towne, Lincolnsville, and Newtown including brief historical
background information and stories from each area.
This remarkable display includes photos of Trinity Church (ca. 1880) standing alone on the corner of
High and Court Streets, Norfolk & Portsmouth Ferry docks (ca. 1890s), and numerous theaters and
churches in the area.
Scenes of the bustling commerce along High Street from the late 1800s to the
1960s are displayed and include a striking image of D. Sullivan’s Blacksmith & Wagon Shop (ca.
1890). The evolution in city transportation plays out with images including horse and buggies, trolleys,
Model Ts, and the earliest known photo of a railcar on the train tracks in the middle of High Street (ca.
Visitors might be surprised to see the image of the Polaris Missile Fountain being decorated for
the holidays that graced the foot of High Street (ca. 1962).
Photographs from the Olde Towne district include the very popular Macon House Hotel (ca.1850s)
with original event advertisements as well as a sampling of Portsmouth’s famous historic homes. For
map-loving visitors, oversized reproductions of the 1888 Atlas of Norfolk & Portsmouth & Vicinity
published by G.M. Hopkins of Philadelphia are displayed and offer an additional layer of context to
this photographic journey.
Lincolnsville, Portsmouth’s first community set aside for free Blacks was annexed in 1890, although
historical accounts from 1867 depict Lincolnsville as a well-established community. This small
neighborhood of 30 acres adjacent to the Naval Hospital was home to many prominent African
American businessmen and women, educators, musicians, and the historic Emanuel AME Church.
Photos include the homes of Jeffrey Wilson (Portsmouth Star columnist) and Israel Charles Norcom
(beloved educator and civic leader) as well as locations found in the Travelers’ Green Book.
The community of Newtown (noted on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of 1888) encompassed the
land surrounding the Gosport Navy Yard. By the 1930s and 40s, the expanding Norfolk Naval
Shipyard would create a surge in population in this tight-knit community. First account stories of
corner stores, baseball games, and lyrics of the neighborhood anthem add to the colorful history of
This exhibition has been a year in the making. Although The Hill House Museum and the Portsmouth
Historical Association had a large accumulation of photos, it was the acquisition of the Marshall Butt,
Sr. photo collection from the estate of Marshall Butt Jr. that inspired this photographic journey through
historic Portsmouth. Volunteers gathered additional photos and research from the Portsmouth Public
Library’s Esther Murdaugh Wilson Memorial Room culminating in the Picture This! display.
The exhibit is open every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday in April from noon to 4 pm with a $5 paid
admission to the museum. Picture This! is proudly sponsored by Colley Avenue Copies and Graphics.
We invite you to come and enjoy these photographic highlights from Portsmouth’s long and rich