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Portsmouth annually celebrates the revitalization of its downtown (in particular Market Square) with Market Square Day, a celebration dating back to 1977, produced by the non-profit Pro Portsmouth, Inc.Portsmouth shipbuilding history has had a long symbiotic relationship with Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River.Portsmouth was part of the Triangle Trade, which made significant profits from slavery.At the town's incorporation in 1653, it was named Portsmouth in honor of the colony's founder, John Mason.African Americans helped defend Portsmouth and New England during the war.In 1779, 19 slaves from Portsmouth wrote a petition to the state legislature and asked that it abolish slavery, in recognition of their war contributions and in keeping with the principles of the Revolution.A historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination, Portsmouth was the home of the Strategic Air Command's Pease Air Force Base, later converted to Portsmouth International Airport at Pease with limited commercial air service.Native Americans of the Abenaki and other Algonquian languages-speaking nations, and their predecessors, inhabited the territory of coastal New Hampshire for thousands of years before European contact.
The population density was 1,361.1 people per square mile (524.4/km²).
In 2008, Portsmouth was named one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The compact and walkable downtown on the waterfront draws tourists and artists, who each summer throng the cafes, restaurants and shops around Market Square.
The west bank of the harbor was settled by English colonists in 1630 and named Strawbery Banke, after the many wild strawberries growing there.
The village was fortified by Fort William and Mary.