The Port of Newport News is an independent city and port of entry for southeastern Virginia in the United States. It is located on the north shores of the harbor of Hampton Roads at the mouth of the James River only seven nautical miles northwest of the Port of Norfolk and some 145 nautical miles south of the Port of Baltimore (traveling through the Chesapeake Bay). In 2000, the Port of Newport News was home to over 180 thousand people, and almost 1.6 million lived in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News metropolitan area.
The Port of Newport News is an important city for the maritime industry. Northrop Grumman owns the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, the Port of Newport News' largest employer. Large coal piers in the Port of Newport News serve the huge CSX Transportation railroad giant. Several US defense industry suppliers make the Port of Newport News their home, and nearby military bases, including the world's biggest naval base of Naval Station Norfolk, contribute many jobs to the Port of Newport News area. The Port of Newport News has two industrial parks that supported the growth of manufacturing and distribution companies in the city. Since the 1990s, the Port of Newport News has also been the center for a growing high-technology sector. Education and research are also important to the Port of Newport News economy. Home to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, over two thousand world scientists conduct research there.
Before Europeans arrived in the area, the Powhatan Renape, a confederacy of tribes and a subdivision of the Algonquian Nation controlled the area of the future Port of Newport News. This proud tribe sought without success to drive the encroaching English settlers out of their lands. Attacks on the whites from 1622 to 1644 brought severe reprisals from the English, and by 1646, the Powhatan Confederacy had been largely destroyed, both by war and by the infectious diseases the whites brought to them to the Port of Newport News.
Not long after the 1607 establishment of the Jamestown Settlement, English settlers arrived in the areas near Hampton Roads that would become the Port of Newport News. In 1610, Sir Thomas Gates claimed the nearby Indian village called Kecoughtan. In 1619, the area of the Port of Newport News, then known as Elizabeth Cittie, was part of four Virginia Company of London Corporation. At that time, it contained the whole of today's South Hampton Roads.
The area of the Port of Newport News, Warwick County, is one of the eight original shires (later called counties) of early Colony of Virginia ruled by Britain under King Charles I. Settled by Daniel Goodkin and 20 Irish colonists in 1621, the name of the Port of Newport News is believed to come from Captain Christopher Newport who commanded five expeditions to Jamestown during the early 1600s.
Dominated by farms, the Port of Newport News area was largely undeveloped until the latter 1880's. Collis Huntington started an era of growth when he built a railroad, coal piers, and a shipyard there. Huntington was a builder of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States and helped finish the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railway. He oversaw the extension of the C&O through Williamsburg to the Port of Newport News.
By 1886, prosperity was assured with the construction of Huntington's Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. The Port of Newport News shipyard is still one of the world's largest, and it has produced ocean liners, aircraft carriers, and nuclear submarines. Given this history, it's no surprise that the Port of Newport News was an important port for supplies and troop embarkations during both world wars.
The Port of Newport News was one of few cities in Virginia to be established without first being incorporated as a town. (Virginia has had independent city subdivisions since 1871.) The Port of Newport News was made independent of Warwick County in 1952 when the county was incorporated as the city of Warwick. Then in 1958, both cities merged into today's Port of Newport News.
In the latter part of the 19th Century, the Port of Newport News downtown was located on the James River waterfront. It changed quickly when the railroad and port were developed. The Port of Newport News population grew from the 1960s through the 1990s, and the city searched for ways to develop the older downtown and midtown areas, investing $82 million in the City Center at Oyster Point that opened in 2005.
Today, the Port of Newport News offers complete and modern facilities that can handle large volumes of cargo including coal, ore, general cargo, and bulk liquids. The Port of Newport News supports a diverse manufacturing community making textiles, paper, aeronautical equipment, electrical equipment, and petroleum products.