This intricate diorama of historic Front Street is part of a large display of Georgetown’s history located in the Rice Museum.
Georgetown, named after England’s Prince George (who later became King George II), was founded by Elisha Screven in 1729. To encourage people to move to the area, Screven designed a four-by-eight grid of streets which developed into what is now called the historic district. This original section of Georgetown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because many buildings from the past still stand on its wide, oak-lined streets.
Before Georgetown was founded, area residents depended heavily on the forest and fur trade with the Winyah Indians. In 1732 the town became an official port, but sadly by then most of the Indian settlements were wiped out by war, disease, or enslavement. However, the loss of the fur trade industry did not slow Georgetown’s evolving economy.
When the War of Austrian Succession broke out in 1740, England’s indigo supply from the West Indies was cut off. South Carolinians clamored to fill the void by cultivating indigo themselves. It became the main cash crop for Georgetown, marking the beginning of an era when indigo reigned supreme. The town would ride this wave of prosperity for over 30 years.
However, when the American Revolution began in 1775, the British stopped purchasing indigo from the United States, and the demand for American indigo disappeared. Luckily for Georgetown, the invention of the rice mill in 1787 made the next step an obvious one for planters.