The 1700s: Oglethorpe & the Revolution
Brunswick's story begins four years before the British victory against the Spanish troops in the battles of Bloody Marsh and Gully Hole Creek. The year 1738 is when the area's first European settler, Mark Carr, arrived.
Upon landing, this captain in Oglethorpe's company established his 1,000-acre Tobacco plantation, which he called "Plug Point," along the Turtle River. Carr owned "Plug Point" until the Royal Province of Georgia purchased the land just before the American Revolution in 1771.
Brunswick was founded in 1771, and the layout of the town properly followed in a plan similar to the one Oglethorpe dictated for Savannah. Delineated squares and parks in a grid style abutted the Brunswick River. In a proper British manner, names of the parks and streets honored those of English fame. Thus, today visitors and residents alike struggle with the pronunciation of Gloucester, puzzle over Halifax, and wonder at Newcastle and Norwich. But those in charge of naming reached further than just the British Isles when they borrowed from George II’s ancestral home in Braunschweig, Germany.
The 1800s: Developing Old Town Brunswick
Brunswick’s growth through the years was slow and extended on a north-south axis. The Old Town National Historic Register district begins at the intersection of Gloucester and Newcastle Street. Old City Hall (1889), accented with its clock tower, anchors the south end of Newcastle Street. The north end of Newcastle boasts the Ritz Theatre, built in 1898 as the Grand Old Opera House. Throughout the town, markers tell the colorful and important history, both American and Georgian, of this seaport town. George Washington proclaimed it as one of the five original ports of entry for the colonies in 1789.
Following the Civil War, the wealth of naval stores and timber created a building boom. Both businesses and residential homes reflected a Victorian architectural character. With the diversity of population, the different styles of the period reflect Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Richardson Romanesque, Folk Victorian, Colonial Revival, Tudor, Italian Renaissance, Prairie, Stick, and Craftsman. An emporium of architectural styles, Brunswick is a town in which to stroll under magnificent oaks and enjoy the splendor of these early homes.
The 1900s: Effects of World War II
World War II broke the tranquility of this seaside town. With the war came a call for workers. And they came both male and female to build and launch over 99 Liberty ships from the J.A. Jones Shipyard in a two-year effort from 1943 to 1945, including seven in one month. These ships were an integral part of the American war effort.
After the war, the importance of its harbor and port continued.
The City of Brunswick continues its long history as a seafaring city. Shrimp boats from up and down the coast came to call; today container ships arrive on a regular basis at the deep-water terminals at Mayor’s Point, Colonel’s Island and Marine Point to unload or take on cargo. To watch two huge containers ships pause as they pass each other off St. Simons is a treat. Likewise, to venture forth in a small boat on these coastal waters provides a welcome escape from mainland cares. Discover our harbor, watch the sunset, and take the time to fish from a pier. A sea breeze and the vista are sure to cure all cares. Learn more about Historic Downtown Brunswick.
Interstate 95 & Surrounding Areas
Georgia’s 90 miles of coast differs dramatically from that of its sister states. Its transportation arteries of long ago, the rivers, proved detrimental in bringing this area of the coast into the twentieth century as the building of Interstate-95 (I-95) pushed both north and south.
Here on the Georgia coast, the rivers are tidal rivers, reflecting an extreme variation in height. No other place on the Atlantic seaboard has such a mean differential between low and high tide. Couple the many tidal rivers, the pull of the ocean’s power, freshets from upcountry rain, and an engineer would have to shake their head and ponder the near impossible. Fortunately, several engineers did lay claim to the crossing and connecting the rivers, bridging the lowlands with the rest of the state. Their work opened the area to the motorists who marvel at the salt marshes and photograph the morning mist hovering over the marshes or the spectacular sunrises and sunsets, noted by Georgia’s native son poet Sidney Lanier in his poem Sunrise.
With the ease of speed and now the addition of extra lanes, I-95 is a mighty transportation artery. A motorist can cross the Savannah River entering the state and exit it upon crossing the St. Mary’s River, entering Florida in a little over an hour. With this rapid momentum, the beauty of the state is often missed.
However, fortunately for those who love back roads and a slower pace, I-95 follows the path of old Highway 17. And this is where the adventure begins. Small towns with unique personalities cry out to motorists “To Come by Here.” For those who chance to leave the interstate behind, Georgia’s coastal history lies waiting. One great example is the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site, near I-95's exit 42, which represents the history and culture of Georgia’s rice coast.