Georgetown Historic District



Episcopal Church & Confederate Monument c1905

Online Tour Of Georgetown's Historic District

As the state's third oldest city, Georgetown dates back to 1729 when the town was laid out by Elisha Screven. The four-by-eight block grid is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area is bordered by Wood, Church, Meeting and Front Streets, with Front Street running alongside the Sampit River. A bustling seaport in colonial times, tall masted sailing ships laden with goods from Europe docked here and left with the trade products of the lowcountry  — indigo in the mid 1700's and rice, cotton and lumber in later years.

Georgetown's Hebrew cemetery (c. 1772) was begun by South Carolina's second oldest Jewish community. The older graves in the center of the cemetery has graves that are turned toward the east so that those buried there would face Jerusalem. In later years, due to lack of space, graves were laid perpendicular to the cemetery's wrought iron boundaries. The cemetery is usually locked, but it is easily viewed from the sidewalk at 400 Broad Street.

Built circa 1750 with old brick from British ships' ballasts, the Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church was twice held by enemy troops; British troops during the Revolutionary War and Union troops during the Civil War. Legend has it that horses were quartered in the stall-sized boxed pews of the church sanctuary during these wars. Badly damaged and pillaged during the Civil War, Prince George's altar was rebuilt and installed with English stained glass saved from a decimated plantation chapel. The churchyard of Prince George borders Broad, Duke and Highmarket Streets.

City Hall. c1900
At the intersection of Front and Screven Streets, one sees the c. 1845 town clock and clock tower bell, over which --according to local tradition-- a feisty Georgetown lady spread a Confederate flag during the Union occupation of the town harbor during the Civil War. The Rice Museum is located in the Old Market Building ( circa 1842), below the clock and bell tower. The museum features dioramas depicting the production of rice and indigo as well as artifacts from these operations, maps and other exhibits.

After the Civil War, Georgetown's former slaves founded Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The new denomination incorporated African tradition with Methodist and Episcopalian elements of the churches they had attended as slaves. The church became the hub of the post Civil War black community. The original 1866 building was replaced by the present church, located at 417 Broad Street, in 1882. The church is only open for services or guided tours with advanced reservations. Donations welcome.

The Kaminski House was built on a bluff with a panoramic view of the Sampit River. Located at 1003 Front Street, it was the home of Confederate sea captain Thomas Gaddett. Owned in later years by Naval Commander and Mrs. Kaminski, they willed the house to the City of Georgetown. Kaminski House is filled with antiques collected by the Kaminskis. Among this collection are distinctive Charleston-made pieces, a fifteenth century Spanish wedding chest, a Chippendale dining table, and a locking tea stand. There is an observation deck overlooking the river and a gift shop in the old butler's quarters.

Surrounding the Rice Museum is LaFayette Park. An oasis of flowers, herbs and other greenery is lovingly tended by a local garden club. Adjacent to the park is Harborwalk, a 1,000 foot long, 12 foot wide boardwalk at waters edge. Underway is an extension that will double the length. Behind Harborwalk are the back door entries and pastel awnings of the charming Front Street shops, restaurants and upstairs residences. The restaurants all have a harbor view, some open to seabreeze dining.

On the street side, the pace is unhurried. Unique shops, restaurants, homes and museums line the well-kept, lantern-lighted street. An added attraction is the Strand Theater. This art-Deco building is in the League of Historic American Theater listings. The marquee is original, and the 40's-style box office was built for the movie "Made in Heaven." A local theater group, The Swamp Fox Players, uses the Strand for performances.

Be sure to wander off Front Street in the 220 acre historic district. The district is compact, and light blue markers identify the historic structures. A walk or drive through the live-oak lined streets will be well rewarded. Guided tours by tram, horse-drawn carriage or on foot are also available for expanded narratives.

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