Georgetown, Delaware

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Georgetown, Delaware
Sussex County Courthouse
Sussex County Courthouse
Location in Sussex  County and the state of Delaware.
Location in Sussex County and the state of Delaware.
Coordinates: 38°41′25″N 75°23′12″W / 38.69028°N 75.38667°W / 38.69028; -75.38667Coordinates: 38°41′25″N 75°23′12″W / 38.69028°N 75.38667°W / 38.69028; -75.38667
Country United States
State Delaware
County Sussex
Founded 1791
 • Mayor Michael Wyatt
 • Town Council Members Steve Hartstein (Ward 1), Sue H. Barlow (Ward 2), Bill West (Ward 3), Linda Dennis (Ward 4)
 • Town Manager Eugene S. Dvornick, Jr.
 • Town Clerk Angela Townsend
 • Police Chief William Topping
 • Total 4.1 sq mi (10.7 km2)
 • Land 4.1 sq mi (10.7 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 52 ft (16 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 6,422
 • Density 1,566.3/sq mi (600.2/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 19947
Area code(s) 302
FIPS code 10-29090
GNIS feature ID 0213993

Georgetown is a town in Sussex County, Delaware, United States. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town is 6,422, an increase of 38.3% over the previous decade.[1] It is the county seat of Sussex County.[2]

Georgetown is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Lewes as the County Seat[edit]

Prior to Georgetown's position as the county seat of Sussex County, it was located in Lewes on the Delaware Bay. Dutch colonists had set up Delaware's first colony there in 1631, and it remained the only significant settlement in Delaware for some time. When William Penn established the three lower counties of Pennsylvania, which are now Delaware, Lewes was the natural choice for the location of the Sussex County's Seat of Justice.

Sussex County itself was not well defined until after 1760 when a dispute between William Penn's family and Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore was finally settled after intervention from the Crown. This dispute had the effect of delaying discussion over an appropriate county seat while the more important argument over the county's borders continued. Earlier Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore had argued that the county ended with Lewes, while Penn's sons stated it continued into Fenwick Island, which it now does. The Mason-Dixon Line was surveyed as part the agreement between the Penns and Lord Baltimore, and it has since defined the western and southern border of the county.

Creation of Georgetown[edit]

All the while Lewes continued to serve as the county seat throughout much of the 18th century, despite the fact that it involved over a day's trip across poor roads for the western residents. As the population of the county increased, the location of Lewes in the far east of the county became less and less suitable. After petitioning by western citizens of the county to the Delaware General Assembly, a law was passed on January 29, 1791, that would centralize the location of the county seat. At the time, the land in central Sussex County was for the most part swampy and uninhabited, so the county government hired ten commissioners to purchase land, build a courthouse and jail and sell lots in an area at "James Pettyjohn's old field or about a mile from where Ebenezer Pettyjohn now lives," as the original order states.

On May 9, 1791, the commissioners under the leadership of the Delaware State Senator George Mitchell purchased 76 acres (308,000 m²). The commissioner Rhodes Shankland began the survey by laying out "a spacious square of 100 yards each way." Eventually Georgetown was laid out in a circle one mile in diameter and centered around the original square surveyed by Shankland. This circle is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new location proved indeed a much better administrative center and Georgetown is in fact still said to be "sixteen miles from everywhere" in Sussex County.

The County Courthouse and Jail were built in the southeastern section of the town circle, and, as a result of the evidence that the new county seat was well on its way, the Seat of Justice was officially moved on October 26, 1791, and named Georgetown in honor of the lead commissioner George Mitchell. Lots, measuring 60 by 120-foot, were surveyed and sold to counterbalance the State's investment.

Later history[edit]

Because of Delaware's status as a border state during the Civil War, Georgetown, like all of Sussex County, sent men to fight for both the Union and Confederate sides causing a very negative effect on many of the town's prominent families as it had a tendency to divide them to a vicious degree.


The town is home to a large chicken processing plant owned by Perdue Farms. The plant employs a sizable number of immigrants from Haiti and Guatemala. Consequently, Georgetown has more of an international flavor to it than one would expect from a Colonial-era town. Georgetown is also the home of WZBH radio and Georgetown Speedway.

Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, early 20th century

Return Day[edit]

Every two years, Georgetown hosts Return Day, a half-day-long parade and festival two days after Election Day.[3] Stemming from the colonial days in which the public would congregate in Georgetown two days after the election to hear the results (because it would take that long to deliver the results to the courthouse by horseback), the winners of that year's political races parade around The Circle in carriages with the losers and the chairs of the county's political parties ceremonially "bury the hatchet" in a tub of sand.[4] The afternoon of Return Day is a holiday for county and state workers in Sussex County, and the event is marked by a traditional ox feast, and the beginning of the next round of campaigns.[5]


Georgetown is unusual among Delaware municipalities in that the center of the town is built around a circle, instead of the more traditional park-like square. Straddling "The Circle" is the Town Hall, state and county buildings, and the historic Sussex County Courthouse. The original Courthouse was replaced by the current structure which was built in 1837 on South Bedford Street. It was further restored in 1976 and is currently managed by the Georgetown Historical Society. Lawyers' offices, stores, a bank, and the Brick Hotel, which has recently completed renovation, also line the Circle. This layout is similar to that found in Annapolis, Maryland, except that, unlike in Annapolis, where the State House is the focal point of the circle, the center of Georgetown's circle is a small park with a fountain. Georgetown's oldest church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church dates to 1794 and is built in the Victorian Gothic style.

In addition to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Joseph T. Adams House, Brick Hotel, Peter S. Faucett House, First Broiler House, Georgetown Coal Gasification Plant, Stella Pepper Gyles House, Judge's House and Law Office, Dr. John W. Messick House and Office, Old Sussex County Courthouse, David Carlton Pepper Farm, Redden Forest Lodge, Forester's House and Stable, Richards Mansion, St. John's Methodist Church, Short Homestead, Thomas Sipple House, Sussex County Courthouse and the Circle, and Gardiner Wright Mansion are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[6] McColley's Chapel was listed in 2011.


Georgetown is located at 38°41′25″N 75°23′12″W / 38.69028°N 75.38667°W / 38.69028; -75.38667 (38.690177, -75.386676).[7]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.1 square miles (11 km2), all of it land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1940 1,820
1950 1,923 5.7%
1960 1,765 −8.2%
1970 1,844 4.5%
1980 1,710 −7.3%
1990 3,732 118.2%
2000 4,643 24.4%
2010 6,422 38.3%

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 4,643 people, 1,489 households, and 957 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,123.9 people per square mile (434.1/km²). There were 1,591 housing units at an average density of 385.1 per square mile (148.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 56.19% White, 20.87% African American, 2.07% Native American, 0.26% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 18.03% from other races, and 2.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 31.73% of the population.

Georgetown's historic railroad station

There were 1,489 households out of which 32.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.0% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.97 and the average family size was 3.29.

In the town the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 14.3% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 16.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 107.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 109.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $31,875, and the median income for a family was $37,925. Males had a median income of $20,886 versus $19,944 for females. The per capita income for the town was $15,288. About 20.9% of families and 25.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.8% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.

In 2000, 21.6% of Georgetown residents identified as being of Guatemalan heritage. This was the highest percentage of Guatemalan Americans in any place in the country.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "The Delaware Census State Data Center". 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ The History of Delaware by J. Thomas Sharff. 1888.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  7. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  8. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links[edit]