Georgetown, South Carolina

By Leslie Moore

Georgetown, South Carolina

We have traveled near, and we have crossed state lines, discovering the shiniest gems to beautifully rugged shells in the sand – each charmed city wrapped in a sea of little-known past times and tried and true happenings and traditions. This month, the Sasee staff is traveling back in time, if you will, to the third oldest city in South Carolina.

Following Charleston and Beaufort, this southern city of charm and history, a place we call Georgetown, South Carolina, was founded in 1729 and became an official port of entry in 1732. Almost a 300 year-old city, Georgetown embodies the mysterious South Carolina Lowcountry and is recognized nationally, not only for its history, but also for the beautifully preserved 18th and 19th century architecture, set along tree-lined streets in the Historic District. Providing a charming backdrop for a thriving commercial district, Front Street is a trove of boutique shopping treasures, chef-driven restaurants, vibrant arts, culture and of course, a welcoming, walkable lifestyle. Set on the lovely Sampit River, the picturesque Harborwalk is a favorite spot for strolling, as well as a docking point for those who come by boat. So load up the car or set sail in your boat and prepare for a glimpse in to the historic life of a centuries-old city.

Georgetown has long been known for its warm hospitality and Southern charisma since its earliest beginnings as the probable site of the first European settlement in North America in 1526, to its present status as a vibrant and gracious city of 9,000 residents. From the years of early settlement, through the Revolutionary War and up to the onset of the Civil War, Georgetown thrived. Starting off with the production of indigo, it didn’t take long for this harbor town to turn to rice for their economic well being after the Revolutionary War. By 1840, the Georgetown District produced nearly one-half of the total rice crop of the United States, and the port exported more rice than any in the world. The local variety called “Carolina Gold” was in demand worldwide.

However, the Civil War changed the region’s way of life. Where rice once brought riches, now it could no longer support the economy of Georgetown. The need for an economic alternative to rice was met by lumber. The Atlantic Coast Lumber Company was incorporated in 1903. By 1914, it was the largest lumber producing plant on the East Coast. Recovery began in 1936 when the International Paper Company built a plant here. By 1942 this plant had become the largest kraft paper mill in the world – and Georgetown’s largest employer. Adding diversity to Georgetown’s industrial base, the Georgetown Steel Mill and an array of other smaller plants were later opened. The industrial boom brought well paying jobs and Georgetown prospered.

Last year, the steel mill was closed. But this is just another beginning for a resilient city! Plans are being made to spruce up and redevelop the site to act as an, as of now, undecided vision for the long-time community. The future of the Port of Georgetown is also being carefully considered in order to bring the most benefit to all. Both are significant figures to the heart and history of this city.

We chatted with downtown Georgetown local and three-year Economic Development Director, Tee Miller, on the proceedings of these exiting new developments. “A high-profile panel of experts from all over the country,” he says, “will conduct comprehensive assessments to generate concepts and recommendations for the city to move forward in the vision to revamp and reopen each structure.” Officials are giving careful consideration to what choice advancement will best leverage the community’s assets, expand on its resources, provide economic opportunity to residents and attract outside investment that will in turn provide the highest and best use for the community as a whole.

Mr. Miller also shed some light on social life in this age-old town, saying the Big Tuna was the watering hole many locals, and second-homers like to frequent. The River Room, with its historic waterfront ambiance, is a another favorite restaurant that has thrived and established itself in the community as the tried and true dining experience with thirty-plus years of fresh “serious seafood” and is considered a coastal tradition. Al Fresco Bistro, serving Italian and seafood delicacies, is the fine dining gem where a warm inviting atmosphere and smiles are always in abundance. This list of tasty food found in Georgetown long and varied. Trust me friends, you will never go hungry for history or delicious food in this town.

Halloween may be our children’s most anticipated celebration this month, but in Georgetown, October marks the famous Wooden Boat Show. Keeping the maritime heritage of Georgetown alive, this now 27 year old event takes place every third weekend in October, falling this year on Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 16th. The show, which has no admission fee, will feature one of the nation’s best wooden boat exhibits displaying more than 140 classic boats, a wooden boatbuilding competition, children’s model boatbuilding, knot tying, maritime art & crafts, food, and music. And new for this year is a Cardboard Boat Regatta. Exciting for both young and adults alike, it’s off to the races! Find all the excitement along Front Street and the Harborwalk.

What’s a historic town without some story telling venues? Nestled within the city are four museums bringing history to life. Take your pick and walk in to the past at the Georgetown County Museum, the South Carolina Maritime Museum, the Rice Museum or the beautiful Kaminski House. Or how about we set sail and see first-hand the beauty of the surrounding estuaries? With an abundance of sailing camps, lessons, tours and cruises, life on the water is as common as life on land to locals and second-homers alike.

If you are new to the area, or just want a day of fun, try a tour with Swamp Fox Tours. Ride in comfort with knowledgeable guides who love their city. Tours are available Monday through Saturday. Walking tours give a closer look, and Strollin’ on the Sampit Walking Tours offers one hour walks led by tour owner and local historian, Debby Summey. Learn about the fragile ecosystem of the waters surrounding Georgetown on a boat tour offered by Rover Tours – tours are offered daily, depending on the weather. These are popular with locals and visitors alike – make your reservations in advance.

A unique coastal community, the City of Georgetown offers an array of opportunities for business, fun and enjoyment. Revolutionary War heroes, like the “Swamp Fox” or Francis Marion, have walked these streets and prowled the nearby countryside. With beautiful sights to behold, Georgetown is a place for strolling live oak tunneled streets and taking a break from the daily grind.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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