Georgetown Circle 0 EDIT 2 min

Georgetown, Delaware – The Circle

Main Streets 2017 – Delaware

Georgetown Circle 0 EDIT 2 min
20161110 143709 EDIT min
Old Courthouse Georgetown001 EDIT min
Georgetown Circle 0 EDIT 2 min 20161110 143709 EDIT min Old Courthouse Georgetown001 EDIT min

Architecture is the star along the rim of the historic central gathering space in this small town in southern Delaware.

That, plus a very unique political tradition.

Designed and laid out in the center of town in 1791 after Georgetown became the Sussex County seat, The Circle is surrounded by historic structures. Notable and eye-catching are the 1837-built County Courthouse, the Old Fire Hall, the 1836-built Brick Hotel, the 1830s Greek Revival-style Mansion House, and the Paynter House, built in the early 1800s and home to a succession of prominent citizens. The Old Georgetown Post Office on The Circle dates to 1932; and the Town Hall, built in 1921, sits on the site of an 1820-vintage tavern.

Georgetown’s major employer today is Perdue Farms, whose chicken processing plant has drawn an influx of immigrants from Haiti and Guatemala to work in the plant. Slightly over one-third of Georgetown’s present-day residents are ethnic Latino, and a fifth are Haitian or African-American. So if you enjoy the sunshine on The Circle’s pleasant green lawns, you’re quite likely to hear townspeople speaking Spanish, Creole or Haitian French.

If you come to The Circle on one particular day, you can join in a local event that happens nowhere else in America. Two days after Election Day, every second year, Georgetown hosts Return Day. The tradition began in the late 1700s, when citizens gathered on The Circle to hear the election results read aloud, after a courier had brought them here after a two-day horseback ride from Wilmington, the state capital.

Each Return Day, the winners of Sussex County’s elections parade in horse-drawn carriages around The Circle, where a town crier still reads out the election results. By tradition, the election losers and political party leaders join the winners to ceremonially “bury the hatchet” — with actual hatchets — in a sand-filled tub.

The afternoon is a holiday for area county and state workers — and in a tradition that dates to the 1800s, when booths along The Circle would roast various meats on Return Day, sandwiches of roasted ox from an all-night open-pit barbecue are distributed free to visitors and locals alike.

All photos courtesy of Southern Delaware Tourism

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Delaware Primary min

Newark, Delaware – East Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Delaware

The more you look into the story of Newark, the more you see its historic connection to education. The city was founded by Scots-Irish and Welsh settlers in 1694. A grammar school that moved here from Pennsylvania in 1765 produced, among its earliest graduates, three signers of the Declaration of Independence — George Read, Thomas McKean and James Smith. In 1833, the state granted a charter to a new college that absorbed the grammar school and became Delaware College, then the University of Delaware. The university complex is right next to Newark’s downtown center, where South, East and West Main Streets come together.

On and around the one-mile core of Main Street that is the center of downtown are retail stores like the National 5 and 10, eateries and cafés like the Ali Baba Middle Eastern Restaurant and Bing’s Bakery, and specialty shops such as Aunt Margaret’s Antique Mall. In fact, more than 80 boutiques and 70 restaurants call the downtown home.

Working to keep the area dynamic is the Downtown Newark Partnership, an active private/public partnership. The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce also creates new business-development opportunities for its members, bringing together business and public officials and advocating for a strong and stable economic climate.

As you’d expect in an active university city, Newark’s downtown plays host to a number of lively public events, along with those on campus next door. Wine and Dine Downtown Newark is a food and wine extravaganza in April. In June, Newark’s premier street festival is A New Night, when Main Street closes to vehicles, live music is all over, and businesses join community organizations in offering booths, displays and food stalls. July brings the Downtown Newark Food & Brew Festival, which invites adults to wander among 18 restaurants, sampling dozens of craft beers together with creatively concocted edibles.

All this and more, plus Newark’s rich community heritage, adds up to the many good reasons why, in 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation honored Newark with one of just five Green American Main Street Awards. Previous decades of competition outside the center had brought a period of decline, the Trust said — but “through the efforts of dedicated stakeholders and partners, Newark now has a vibrant, thriving downtown.”

All photos courtesy of University of Delaware

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