Just seven short miles from St. Simons Island is Historic Downtown Brunswick, Georgia. Originally settled in 1738, today Brunswick is a thriving town where historic sites provide the backdrop for modern living. Historic Downtown Brunswick was laid out in the grid style following General James Oglethrope’s plan for Savannah. A stroll through the historic district reveals many public squares, both large and small, and the original town plan has remained through today.
With oak-lined streets, Brunswick features a wide variety of architectural styles in its commercial buildings and homes dating back to the Victorian era. Historians and admirers of architecture delight at the town’s rich history and landmark sights. Among the historic sights, a unique lifestyle thrives. With a nod to history and a vision of the future, Historic Downtown Brunswick is alive with shops, restaurants and vibrant events. Visitors to St. Simons Island often enjoy a day or evening in Brunswick, exploring this neighboring port city.
Brunswick’s first settler, Mark Carr, was a captain in General James Oglethorpe’s Marine Boat Company. He established his plantation in 1738 on 1,000 acres. In 1771, the Royal Province of Georgia purchased the land and established the town of Brunswick, laid out in the grid style following Oglethorpe’s plan for Savannah. The Oglethorpe Plan intended to create an orderly city filled with common green space, allowing residents to live in harmony with nature. The town is named after King George II’s ancestral home in Germany. During a time when many towns and cities were distancing themselves from their English heritage, Brunswick retained the English names of its streets and squares, which are still present today.
Glynn Academy was the first public building constructed in 1819. During the 1800s, development continued with a courthouse, jail, homes and retail. In 1854, the Altamaha-Brunswick Canal opened, connecting the natural port with interior plantations. And in 1856, the railroad opened. By 1860, Brunswick had a bank, weekly newspaper and sawmill. During the Civil War, the city was ordered to evacuate and the canal and railroad ceased operation. A post-war depression followed until one of the nation’s largest lumber mills began operations on neighboring St. Simons Island. The heart pine lumber cut here became timers, floors and ceilings for building activity worldwide. In the late 1800s, port business for lumber, naval stores, oyster and cotton were expanding.
For World War I, wooden and concrete ships were built in Brunswick. And during World War II, 99 Liberty Ships were constructed in Brunswick and the local population tripled. Today Brunswick is home to a thriving port and is the Shrimp Capitol of the World. Brunswick’s Old Town district is the largest small town on the National Register of Historic Places in Georgia. The National Main Street program is a carefully planned revitalization to preserve and showcase Brunswick’s distinct historic qualities.