Although English settlers arrived early in the area, what we see today largely results from changes after 1879, when Colis P. Huntington, seeking an outlet for the shipment of coal from the west, located the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad at the small fishing village of Newport News. By 1882 the line was complete, and the town became a major seaport. Huntington established the Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Company (now the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company), which, along with the Huntington Land Company, developed much of the town. The Spanish-American War saw the first major deployment of troops through the town, a pattern that would continue for over half a century. The Virginia Port Authority, which takes up the southwestern end of downtown, was established in 1926. In 1958 the city of Newport News absorbed the surrounding county of Warwick. Today the city spreads up the peninsula and represents, perhaps more urgently than any other Virginia city, the problems of suburban sprawl and misguided decisions on urban renewal of an old center city. The result is appalling urban decay.
The significant structures can be found near the James River.