Main Streets 2017 – Delaware
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