Newport News is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 180,719. In 2013, the population was estimated to be 183,412, making it the fifth-most populous city in Virginia.
Newport News is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. It is at the southeastern end of the Virginia Peninsula, on the northern shore of the James River extending southeast from Skiffe’s Creek along many miles of waterfront to the river’s mouth at Newport News Point on the harbor of Hampton Roads. The area now known as Newport News was once a part of Warwick County. Warwick County was one of the eight original shires of Virginia, formed by the House of Burgesses in the British Colony of Virginia by order of King Charles I, in 1634. The county was largely composed of farms and undeveloped land until almost 250 years later.
In 1881, 15 years of explosive development began under the leadership of Collis P. Huntington, whose new Peninsula Extension of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway from Richmond opened up transportation along the Peninsula and provided a new pathway for the railroad to bring West Virginia bituminous coal to port for coastal shipping and worldwide export. With the new railroad came a terminal and coal piers where the colliers were loaded. Within a few years, Huntington and his associates also built a large shipyard. In 1896, the new incorporated town of Newport News, which had briefly replaced Denbigh as the county seat of Warwick County, had a population of 9,000. In 1958, by mutual consent by referendum, Newport News was consolidated with the former Warwick County (itself a separate city from 1952 to 1958), rejoining the two localities to approximately their pre-1896 geographic size. The more widely known name of Newport News was selected as they formed what was then Virginia’s third largest independent city in population.
With many residents employed at the expansive Newport News Shipbuilding, the joint U.S. Air Force-U.S. Army installation at Joint Base Langley–Eustis, and other military bases and suppliers, the city’s economy is very connected to the military. The location on the harbor and along the James River facilitates a large boating industry which can take advantage of its many miles of waterfront. Newport News also serves as a junction between the rails and the sea with the Newport News Marine Terminals located at the East End of the city. Served by major east-west Interstate Highway 64, it is linked to others of the cities of Hampton Roads by the circumferential Hampton Roads Beltway, which crosses the harbor on two bridge-tunnels. Part of the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport is in the city limits.
Newport News is located at 37°4′15″N 76°29′4″W (37.071046, −76.484557). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 120 square miles (310 km2), of which 69 square miles (180 km2) is land and 51 square miles (130 km2) (42.4%) is water.
The city is located at the Peninsula side of Hampton Roads in the Tidewater region of Virginia, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA) is the 37th largest in the nation with a 2014 population estimate of 1,716,624. The area includes the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, Surry, and York, as well as the North Carolina counties of Currituck and Gates. Newport News serves as one of the business centers on the Peninsula. The city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach oceanside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism.
Newport News shares land borders with James City County on the northwest, York County on the north and northeast, and Hampton on the east. Newport News shares water borders with Portsmouth on the southeast and Suffolk on the south across Hampton Roads, and Isle of Wight County on the southwest and west and Surry County on the northwest across the James River.
Newport News is located in the humid subtropical climate zone, with cool to mild winters, and hot, humid summers. Due to the inland location, throughout the year, highs are 2 to 3 °F (1.1 to 1.7 °C) warmer and lows 1 to 2 °F (0.6 to 1.1 °C) cooler than areas to the southeast. Snowfall averages 5.8 inches (15 cm) per season, and the summer months tend to be slightly wetter. The geographic location of the city, with respect to the principal storm tracks, favors fair weather, as it is south of the average path of storms originating in the higher latitudes, and north of the usual tracks of hurricanes and other major tropical storms.
As with most of Virginia, Newport News is most often associated with the larger American South. People who have grown up in the Hampton Roads area have a unique Tidewater accent which sounds different from a stereotypical Southern accent. Vowels have a longer pronunciation than in a typical southern accent.
Near the city’s western end, a historic C&O railroad station, as well as American Civil War battle sites near historic Lee Hall along U.S. Route 60 and several 19th century plantations have all been protected. Many are located along the roads leading to Yorktown and Williamsburg, where many sites of the Historic Triangle are of both American Revolutionary War and Civil War significance. The first modern duel of ironclad warships, the Battle of Hampton Roads, took place not far off Newport News Point in 1862.
Recovered artifacts from USS Monitor are displayed at the Mariners’ Museum, one of the more notable museums of its type in the world. The museum’s collection totals approximately 32,000 artifacts, international in scope, which include ship models, scrimshaw, maritime paintings, decorative arts, figureheads and engines. The museum also owns and maintains a 550-acre park on which is located the Noland Trail, and the 167-acre Lake Maury.
The Virginia War Museum covers American military history. The museum’s collection includes, weapons, vehicles, artifacts, uniforms and posters from various periods of American history. Highlights of the Museum’s collection include a section of the Berlin Wall and the outer wall from Dachau Concentration Camp.
The Peninsula Fine Arts Center contains a rotating gallery of art exhibits. The Center also maintains a permanent “Hands on For Kids” gallery designed for children and families to interact in what the Center describes as “a fun, educational environment that encourages participation with art materials and concepts.”