With a population of 115,451 at the time of the 2020 United States Census, it is the ninth most populous city in the state. Wilmington is the principal city of the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan area that includes New Hanover and Pender counties in southeastern North Carolina, which has a population of 263,429 as of the 2012 Census Estimate. The city was founded in the 1730s, and after going through a couple of different names (New Carthage, New London, Newton), its name became Wilmington in 1740. It was named after Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington. Its historic downtown has a 1.75-mile (2.82 km) Riverwalk, developed as a tourist attraction in the late 20th century. In 2014, Wilmington’s riverfront was ranked as the “Best American Riverfront” by readers of USA Today. The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected Wilmington as one of its 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. City residents live between the river and the ocean, with four nearby beach communities just outside Wilmington: Fort Fisher, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, all within half-hour drives from downtown Wilmington.