Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607. Shortly thereafter, the settlers started exploring the surrounding areas and clearing the land along the James River (including the present-day Newport News) in order to establish plantations.
Newport News, then known as Elizabeth Cittie, was included in one of the corporations for Virginia Company of London. In 1634, Virginia was divided into shires and Newport News was part of Warwick River Shire. Until the American Civil War, Newport News was a small fishing village surrounded by plantations. Then the railroad arrived and a large shipyard was established, which, naturally, prompted a large number of people to move into the area. However, it was still an unincorporated area and it was only during the Reconstruction period, after the Civil War, that Newport News was incorporated as a city. The founder of the newly incorporated city was a California businessman Collis P. Huntington, associated with Central Pacific Railroad. He first helped establish several railroad branches in Virginia, including Newport News, and then developed Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock company, which, at the time, was the world’s largest shipyard. Other members of the Huntington family also played important roles in Newport News, starting various projects that helped the city grow and develop.
In the late 19th century Newport News transformed from a farm trading town to an actual city with developed central zones and industrial areas around it. Residential development was pushed to the edges of the city, creating large suburban districts.
Newport News and the nearby city of Warwick merged in 1958, taking the better-known name of Newport News.
The city today occupies 119.1 square miles. A large portion of the total area (42.64%) is water, and the rest is land. Newport News is located in the Tidewater region of Virginia, at the Peninsula side of Hampton Roads. Together with Norfolk, Newport News is a business center for the region, while Virginia Beach and Williamsburg serve as the centers of tourism.
Some of the distinctive neighborhoods in Newport News include City Center, Brentwood, East End, Denbigh, Hilton Village, Oyster Point, Morrison, Lee Hall, Warwick, Kiln Creek and others.
The city has warm and humid summers and mild winters with occasional snowfall. Because of its location, Newport News is spared by most severe weather events, such as hurricanes and major tropical storms.
According to the 2010 Census, Newport News has 180,719 residents and the racial makeup is 49% White, 40.7% Black or African American, 2.7% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 2.7% some other race and 4.3% two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos make up 7.5% of the population in the city.
The median household income in 2010 was $36,597 and the per capita income was $17,843.
Shipbuilding, aerospace and military are the largest and the most important sectors in the economy of Newport News. The city has miles of waterfront and several major shipbuilding companies, most notably the Newport News Shipbuilding. These are supplied through a branch of the railroad giant CSX Transportation. Newport News Marine Terminal, covering 140 acres, lies at the end of the CSX tracks. U.S. defense suppliers and the military bases located in the greater city area employ thousands of city residents and also contribute greatly to the local economy. Those include Fort Eustis, Fort Monroe, Langley Air Force Base, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Camp Peary. Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, is located across the harbor from Newport News and also employs a large number of its residents.
Since the 1990s Newport News has also become a regional center for technology companies.
The largest employer in the city is Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding, followed by Fort Eustis and Newport News School System.
Culturally, Newport News is often associated with the American South. However, its residents have a particular Tidewater accent, which is different from what people usually associate with Southern accents.
The city is home to a large number of museums. Some of them include Mariner’s Museum, which includes artifacts from the USS Monitor; the Virginia War Museum, which in addition to artifacts from American history also includes pieced of the Berlin Wall and of a wall in the Dachau concentration camp, and the U.S. Army Transportation Museum with almost 100 military vehicles.
The city is also home to the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Ferguson Center for the Arts and Virginia Living Museum. The annual Port Warwick Art and Sculpture Festival is a popular art and culture event in the city.
Newport News has 32 city parks. The largest one is Newport News Park, the second-largest city park in the United States.
The city is home to the Christopher Newport University. Other institutions of higher education in the vicinity include Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and The College of William and Mary.
The major highway in the city is Interstate 64, which passes through the city from east to west. Newport News is connected to other cities in the region through the Hampton Roads Beltway, which crosses the Hampton Roads harbor through two bridge-tunnel complexes.
Local mass transit in the city is operated by Hampton Roads Transit. Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound and the passenger rail service by Amtrak, with four trains a day.
Newport News is served by three airports. The primary airport is Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport and the other two are Norfolk International Airport and Richmond/Byrd International Airport.