SC History Trail

Georgetown and Front Street Village

The third-oldest city in South Carolina, Georgetown is rich in history and culture, and offers visitors a wide variety of historic attractions from the Colonial Era to the present.


Georgetown and Front Street Village
Front Street, Georgetown, SC 29440
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Site Description
Established in 1729, Georgetown is the third-oldest city in South Carolina - only Charleston and Beaufort are older. The city's modern Harborwalk, a handsome, 1,100-foot walkway that extends along a prime stretch of Georgetown's waterfront, is a reminder of the city's life as an important South Carolina river and ocean port. Georgetown arose at the mouth of the Sampit River, where the waterway empties into sprawling, picturesque Winyah Bay, at the heart of coastal lands inhabited in ages past by indigenous Indian tribes such as the Winyah and Waccamaw.

The town was established by Elisha Screven, the son of William Screven, a non-conformist English pastor who established South Carolina's first Baptist Church in Charleston. Although the Church of England was the official denomination of the Colony of South Carolina and all other faiths were considered "dissenters", Elisha Screven laid out the town of Georgetown with lots set aside for Baptist and Presbyterian churches, along with the Anglican Church.

Georgetown quickly became an important port for the exportation of rice and indigo (a plant from which a royal blue dye was derived), and a port of arrival for immigrants settling the wilderness regions along the Black, Waccamaw and Pee Dee Rivers, which also empty into Winyah Bay. The success of the region's rice planters - among the largest per capita income in America by the mid-19th century - made Georgetown County one of the wealthiest and most influential areas of South Carolina, and also gave it the largest slave population in America by 1860. The brilliantly-designed and long-lived rice fields, with their trunks and sluice gates, are believed to have been conceived and constructed by Georgetown County slaves who brought unique rice-growing know-how with them from West Africa.

Georgetown was politically, as well as economically, important in the Colonial Era. Two members of the South Carolina delegation to the Continental Congress, Thomas Lynch Sr. and Thomas Lynch Jr., were members of the Continental Congress and Thomas Lynch Jr. was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. When British forces overran South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, Georgetown became the site of a British fortification and was garrisoned by British troops for almost a year in 1780-81. After the Revolution, timber and naval stores added to Georgetown's importance as a seaport, second in importance only to Charleston. The African-American slave population outnumbered the white population and Georgetown also recorded a significant population of free blacks, as well as a large and important Jewish community.

To protect the port of Georgetown during the Civil War, Confederate fortifications were established on lands bordering Winyah Bay, with the largest, Battery White, erected below the city at Mayrants Bluff. Georgetown was captured and occupied by Federal troops in February of 1865, and was the starting point for one of the final military operations of the Civil War - a raid across South Carolina by Federal troops under Brigadier General Edward E. Potter. Following the Civil War, rice planting disappeared, diminished by the loss of slave labor and a series of hurricanes that damaged the region's rice fields. Georgetown continued its legacy as an important South Carolina seaport, however, bolstered in 1935, when International Paper Company picked Georgetown as the site of the world's largest pulp and paper mill which exists today, along with a large local center for steel production.

Georgetown's rich history and culture have kept it popular with visitors who enjoy its numerous historic sites, Harborwalk, Antebellum homes, numerous shops and restaurants - many of which are found in the historic, colorful Front Street Village. Among the many history-related attractions in the Georgetown area are the Georgetown County Museum, the Rice Museum, Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church, the Kaminski House and Hobcaw Barony Visitor Center. Information on a regularly-scheduled riding tour of the historic district, home tours, and various historic and cultural attractions are available from the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
Tours and Events
Guided Tours: Available
Group Tours Available