Brunswick, Georgia

Brunswick is a city in the U.S. state of Georgia and the county seat of Glynn County. The municipality is located in southeastern Georgia on a harbor on the eastern shore of Oglethorpe Bay, approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of the Florida state line. It was founded in 1771 by the Province of Georgia and incorporated on February 22, 1856. Plans for the city's streets and squares were laid out in the grid style following James Oglethorpe's Savannah Plan. In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed Brunswick as one of the five original ports of entry for the colonies.

In 2006, the city proper had an estimated population of 16,074, and it had an estimated metropolitan population of 101,792 in July 2007. Its metropolitan area is the twelfth largest in the state of Georgia and includes the counties of Glynn, Brantley, and McIntosh.

The Port of Brunswick is one of the nation's most productive ports on the Atlantic coast. The city's economy ecompasses manufacturing, agricultural processing, bulk cargoes, and tourism: the single largest industry in Brunswick and Glynn County. Brunswick is also the center of Georgia's shrimp and crab industry; the city was once called The Shrimp Capital of the World due to the many wild shrimp harvested in its local waters.

The headquarters facility of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) is a vital part of Brunswick's economy as well; the facility located just north of the city brings in thousands of students monthly. Adjacent to FLETC is Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, which provides commercial air service to the region.


The area's first European settler, Mark Carr, arrived in 1738. Carr, a Scotsman, was a captain in General James Oglethorpe’s Marine Boat Company; upon landing, he established his tobacco plantation along the Turtle River. The Royal Province of Georgia purchased Carr’s fields in 1771 and laid out the town of Brunswick in the grid style following Oglethorpe’s Savannah Plan. The town was then named after the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Germany (the ancestral home of King George II of Great Britain).

George Washington proclaimed Brunswick one of the five original ports of entry for the colonies in 1789, and in 1797, the Georgia General Assembly transferred the county seat of Glynn County from Frederica (on St. Simons Island) to Brunswick.

Glynn Academy, the first public building in Brunswick and the second-oldest high school in Georgia, was constructed in 1819. Throughout the former part of the nineteenth century, Brunswick gained a courthouse, a jail, and about thirty houses and stores. The town was officially incorporated as a city on February 22, 1856.

Brunswick was abandoned during the Civil War when citizens were ordered to evacuate. The city, like many others in the South, suffered from post-war depression. After one of the nation’s largest lumber mills began operation on nearby St. Simons Island, economic prosperity returned; rail lines were constructed from Brunswick to inland Georgia, and the area started to see national recognition.

In 1878, poet and native Georgian Sidney Lanier, who sought relief from tuberculosis in Brunswick’s climate, wrote his poem “The Marshes of Glynn” based on the salt marshes that span across Glynn County. Years later, some of the era’s most influential families (Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and Goodyears) began to come to Jekyll Island which became known as a posh, exclusive getaway.

A yellow fever epidemic began in 1893 which heralded a decade of hardships for the city; it was flooded in 1893 when a modern-day Category 3 hurricane (today known as the Sea Islands Hurricane) paralleled the coast of Georgia before hitting South Carolina. The storm left the city under six feet of water. A Category 4 hurricane hit Cumberland Island just south of Brunswick in October 1898, which caused a 16-foot storm surge in the city. As a result, 179 were killed.

Construction of an electric streetcar line began in 1909 and was completed in 1911. Tracks were located in the center of several city streets. An electrical line, running directly above the tracks, supplied power to operate the streetcar engines. African Americans were unable to ride on the streetcars because of segregation and instead had to rely on taxis. In July 1924, the F.J. Torras Causeway, the roadway between Brunswick and St. Simons Island, was completed, and passenger boat service from Brunswick to St. Simons Island was terminated. By 1926, the electric streetcar line in Brunswick was discontinued; the decline of the streetcar systems coincided with the rise of the automobile.

In World War II, Brunswick served as a strategic military location. German U-boats threatened the coast of the southern United States. Blimps became a common site as they patrolled the coastal areas. During the war, blimps from Brunswick’s Glynco Naval Air Station (at the time, the largest blimp base in the world) safely escorted almost 100,000 ships without a single vessel lost to enemy submarines.

Liberty ships

In World War II, Brunswick boomed as over 16,000 workers of the J.A. Jones Construction Company produced ninety-nine Liberty ships and "Knot" ships (Type C1-M ships which were designed for short coastal runs, and most often named for knots) for the U.S. Maritime Commission to transport war matériel to the European and Pacific Theatres.

The first ship was the SS James M. Wayne (named after James Moore Wayne), whose keel was laid on July 6 1942 and was launched on March 13 1943. The last ship was the SS Coastal Ranger, whose keel was laid on June 7 1945 and launched on August 25 1945. The first six ships took 305 to 331 days each to complete, but soon production ramped up and most of the remaining ships were built in about two months, bringing the average down to 89 days each. By November 1943, about four ships were launched per month. The SS William F. Jerman was completed in only 34 days in November and December 1944. Six ships could be under construction in slipways at one time.

Most of the Liberty ships from Brunswick were assigned to U.S. shipping companies and most of them were named after famous Americans (starting with U.S. Supreme Court Justices from the South). However, numbers 19, 29, and 31–40 went to Great Britain (Ministry of War Transport) under the Supplemental Defense Appropriations Act of 1941 (see Lend-Lease) and were given one-word names starting with "Sam" (e.g. Samdee). Number 73 went to Norway.



Brunswick is located at (31.158777, -81.489252), 60 miles (97 km) north of Jacksonville, Florida and 250 miles (402 km) southeast of Atlanta. Brunswick is situated on a peninsula with Oglethorpe Bay to the west, the Brunswick River to the south, and the Intracoastal Waterway to the east. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.2 square miles (65.2 km²), of which, 17.2 square miles (44.6 km²) of it is land and 8.0 square miles (20.7 km²) of it is water. The total area is 31.68% water, mostly attributed to salt marshes east of the city's mainland. The Intracoastal Waterway passes between Brunswick and St. Simons Island, utilizing the South Brunswick River and the Mackay River. Oglethorpe Bay separates Brunswick from Andrews Island, a dredge spoil-site.

Brunswick is the lowest city in the state of Georgia, with an elevation of only 10 feet (3 m) above sea level.


Brunswick's climate is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa in Köppen climate classification system). During the summer months, it is common for the temperature to reach over 90 °F (32 °C). However, the humidity results in a heat index higher than the actual temperature. Summer mornings average nearly 90 percent humidity and nearly 60 percent in the afternoon. Scattered afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Brunswick was 106 °F (41 °C) in 1986. Winters in Brunswick are fairly temperate. The average high in January, the coldest month, is 63 °F (17 °C), while the average low is 44 °F (7 °C). Snowfall is very rare. The last snow accumulation in Brunswick was on December 23, 1989. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Brunswick was 5 °F (−15 °C) in 1985.

Brunswick receives a high amount of rainfall annually, averaging about 49 inches each year. The wettest months are August and September, the peak of hurricane season. The city has suffered less damage from hurricanes than most other East Coast cities. A major hurricane has not made landfall on the Georgia coast since 1898, and the only hurricane that has hit the coast since then was Hurricane David in 1979. However, the city has experienced hurricane or near-hurricane conditions several times due to storms passing through Florida from the Gulf of Mexico and entering Georgia or passing to the north or south in the Atlantic and brushing the area.


The Brunswick area has four Superfund sites, formerly home to heavily contaminated toxic waste sites. The Hanlin Group, which maintained a facility to the north of the city called "LCP Chemicals," was convicted of dumping 150 tons of mercury into Purvis Creek, a tributary of the Turtle River, and surrounding tidal marshes between the mid-1980s and its closure in 1994. The State of Georgia asked the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take immediate action at the site upon its closing. The facility was declared a Superfund site; the LCP facility had previously been under scrutiny by the EPA when biologists discovered mercury poisoning in endangered wood storks on St. Simons Island. Fish, shellfish, crabs, and shrimp taken in coastal waters as well as other bird species also contained the toxic metal. The EPA traced the source of the contamination to the LCP plant and documented the extent of the damage to wildlife resources – an effort that resulted in the addition of Endangered Species Act charges to those that would be brought against Hanlin and its officers.

There are three other Superfund sites in the area: Brunswick Wood Preserving, Hercules 009 Landfill, and Terry Creek Dredge Spoil Areas/Hercules Outfall.


As of the census of 2000, there were 15,600 people, 6,085 households, and 3,681 families residing in the city. The population density was 906 people per square mile (349.8/km²). There were 6,952 housing units at an average density of 403.8/sq mi (155.9/km²).

The racial makeup of the city was 59.81% African American, 36.41% White, 0.27% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.73% from other races, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.82% of the population. The top 5 ancestry groups in the city are American (5.3%), English (5.1%), Subsarahan African (4.3%), Irish (4.1%), and German (3.6%). 54.1% of the population reported another ancestry. In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.8 males.

Of the 6,085 households, 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.4% were married couples living together, 24.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% were non-families. 33.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.13. The median income for a household in the city was $22,272, and the median income for a family was $28,564. Males had a median income of $26,172 versus $18,602 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,062. About 25.2% of families and 30.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 43.9% of those under age 18 and 21.7% of those age 65 or over.


The Port of Brunswick forms a vital part of the city's economy. It is recognized as one of the most productive ports on the East Coast and is the sixth-busiest automobile port in the United States; it is the primary export facility for two of the three United States traditional automotive manufacturers: Ford and General Motors. In addition, the port is also the primary export facility for Mercedes-Benz. The port serves as the central import facility for Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche, and Volvo. Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen utilize the port as a facility for imports as well. In addition to automobiles, exports also include agricultural products and other bulk cargoes.

The port is operated by the Georgia Ports Authority and features four separate terminals: Colonel's Island RoRo, Colonel's Island Agri-bulk, Mayor's Point, and Marine Port. Mayor's Point is the only terminal located within the city. The Colonel's Island and Marine Port terminals are located southwest of the city.

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), a large agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, is headquartered in Glynco, north of the city. A study conducted by Georgia Tech identified FLETC as the largest employer in Glynn County; it was further determined that FLETC's annual localized economic impact is in excess of $600 million.

Southeast Georgia Health System is the largest private employer in Brunswick. Other major employers in the area include King and Prince Seafood, Sea Island Company, and Rich Products' SeaPak Shrimp Company. Wood pulp is produced by the Georgia-Pacific mill in Brunswick. The mill, which has been in operation since 1937, has the capability to produce over 800,000 tonnes of cellulose each year. Additionally, it is the largest single-site fluff production facility in the world. Hercules, a manufacturer and marketer of chemical specialties, operates a production facility on the north side of Brunswick. Jet aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream Aerospace also has a presence at the city's airport.

Tourism is the single largest industry in the city and the county. Brunswick and the Golden Isles are a year-round resort community. The islands' beaches, resorts, shops, and historic sites attract visitors from around the world annually. President George W. Bush hosted the G8 summit in 2004 on Sea Island.


City government:
Mayor Bryan Thompson
Mayor Pro Tem Cornell Harvey
Commissioner James H. Brooks
Commissioner Mark Spaulding
Commissioner Jonathan Williams
Manager Roosevelt Harris, Jr.
Brunswick uses the city commission model of municipal government. The city commission consists of five individuals elected on a plurality-at-large basis. Commissioners constitute the legislative body of the city and, as a group, are responsible for taxation, appropriations, ordinances, and other general functions. Individual commissioners are assigned responsibility for a specific aspect of municipal affairs. One commisioner is designated to function as mayor. The mayor of Brunswick is Bryan Thompson who was first elected in 2005.

The city is divided into two wards with each ward electing two city commission representatives. The mayor serves as an at-large commissioner and chairperson. The commission meets twice each month at Old City Hall in Old Town. The city commission appoints a city manager to serve at will for an infinite term. The main duty of the manager is to oversee policy set by the city commission on a daily basis. The city manager is to see that all laws, provisions of the city charter, and any acts of the city commission are executed and enforced. The city manager of Brunswick is Roosevelt Harris, Jr.

Brunswick has an active sister cities program designed to encourage cultural and economic exchanges. Brunswick has has one sister city: Yilan City in the Republic of China (Taiwan).


Higher education

Brunswick is home to the College of Coastal Georgia (CCGA). CCGA has more than 3,000 enrolled students. In 2008, the college began its transition to a four-year institution with baccalaureate degrees in education, business, and nursing sciences scheduled to begin as early as fall 2009. The college is currently a two-year institution, with associate degree programs designed to prepare students to transfer to senior colleges and universities. The college also offers one- and two-year career programs that prepare students for immediate employment as well as developmental and remedial courses for students who need to refresh or strengthen their academic background. Bachelor's and master's degrees from Armstrong Atlantic State University, Georgia Southern University, and Valdosta State University are also obtainable in certain degree programs through the Brunswick campus.

Primary and secondary schools

The Glynn County School System is the governing authority of public schools in the city. More than 12,000 students attend schools in the school system. There are ten elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools: Brunswick High and Glynn Academy. Glynn Academy, Georgia's second-oldest public high school and the fourth-oldest public high school in the United States, was founded in 1788 by an act of the Georgia General Assembly. Brunswick High School opened its doors in 1967.

There are several private schools operating in the community. In the city, there is one Catholic school and one Seventh-day Adventist school. There are also Baptist, Pentecostal, and non-denominational Christian schools north of the city. On St. Simons Island, there is a Presbyterian school. The only private high school in the area is Frederica Academy although several smaller Christian schools in Brunswick offer high school education. Frederica, a nonsectarian school on St. Simons Island, offers classes from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.


Arts and theatre

The Ritz Theatre, in downtown Brunswick, is home to several cultural events throughout the year. The Ritz was first built in 1898 to house the Grand Opera House, retail establishments, and the general offices of the Brunswick and Birmingham Railroad. Originally, the Grand Opera House, a three-story Victorian building featuring ornate brick and stonework, served as a theatre for vaudeville. In the 1930s, the Opera House was converted into a movie palace. In addition, carrara glass covered the first-story brickword to create a more modern Art Deco look, and a marquee and cascading sign were added, renaming the Opera House the Ritz Theatre. In 1980, the city purchased the Ritz, and the theatre was modernized and substantially altered, but the Ritz sign was left intact. The Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association has managed the theatre since 1989, and recent renovations have revealed the theatre's original brickwork, storefronts, transoms, and glass. Live performances now can be seen on the Ritz stage, and further restoration will offer space for artists' studios and classes on the second and third floors.

The city is home to various art galleries. The Gallery on Newcastle, an authentically restored nineteenth century building, is home to a display of scenes from coastal Georgia marshes. The gallery also features work from 18 other artists from the southeastern United States. To compliment the art are antiques and artifacts from China, Indonesia, and Mexico.

Sports and recreation

Golf is quite popular in the Brunswick area. There are three golf courses located just north of the city, and combined with Jekyll, St. Simons, and Sea Island, there are 252 holes of golf in the Brunswick area. One course on St. Simons Island, the Seaside Course, is currently being considered for a PGA Tour event, filling the spot on the 2009 fall schedule left vacant by the Valero Texas Open which moves to the spring. The area is notorious for its golf resorts. In 2008, Sea Island was ranked the number-one destination for business meetings and golf by Golf Digest and USA Today. Sea Island was also ranked number-one among the best golf resorts in North America by Golf Digest.

Brunswick formerly served host to the Golden Isles Bowl Classic, one of the most prestigious junior college football bowl games in the country. On the first Saturday each December, two highly ranked and powerful junior college football teams met at Glynn County Stadium. The game was discontinued in 2007.

Golden Isles Speedway, located approximately 20 miles west of the city, is the prime dirt track racing facility in the area. The .625-mile oval is sanctioned by United Midwestern Promoters and features frequent events from the National Late Model Series and the O'Reilly Southern All-Star Racing Series

The Brunswick area is home to two out of three publicly accessible beaches in the state. Brunswick is the gateway city to Jekyll and St. Simons Island; both islands are accessible via automobile only by causeways from the city. The islands, or the "Golden Isles," feature white-sand public beaches, and are popular destinations for both tourists and local citizens.

Parks and squares

The Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department operates city parks and squares. Six original squares still exist in the city, although all but one, Hanover, have been bisected by a city street. There are also two additional squares located within the city, Orange and Palmetto. Numerous parks exist in the city, the largest being Howard Coffin Park. The parks include features such as playgrounds, baseball fields, softball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, and picnic areas. Coffin Park includes a walking track. The district also owns the Roosevelt Lawrence Community Center, a center equipped with popular and traditional recreational game tables, two classrooms, and a multi-purpose gymnasium.

The Brunswick area is rich in live oak trees, particularly the Southern live oak. Such is the quality of the live oak trees in the Brunswick and the Golden Isles area that Revolutionary warships such as the USS Constitution (nicknamed Old Ironsides) were clad in St. Simons Island oak planks. Brunswick has a notable live oak named Lover's Oak (located at Prince and Albany Streets). As of 2005, it is approximately 900 years old. According to the State of Georgia and American Indian folklore, Native American braves and their maidens would meet under the oak.


The city lays claim to Brunswick stew, a tomato-based stew containing various types of lima beans, corn, okra, and other vegetables, and one or more types of meat. Most recipes claiming authenticity call for squirrel or rabbit meat, but chicken, pork and beef are also common ingredients. A twenty-five-gallon iron pot outside the city bears a plaque declaring the stew was first cooked there in 1898. The Brunswick Rockin' Stewbilee, held annually in October, features a stew tasting contest where visitors sample over 50 teams' stews. The Stewbilee became notorious when the city invited Brunswick County, Virginia to the festival for a stew cookoff in the 1980s, which led the Brunswick "Stew Wars" to be featured in Southern Living.

Brunswick is the center of Georgia's shrimping industry. The city was once called The Shrimp Capital of the World, but in recent times, production has been far below average. Nevertheless, nearby Jekyll Island hosts the Wild Georgia Shrimp & Grits Festival in September. Apart from shrimping, the area is also the center of Georgia's crab and oyster industries.



Brunswick Golden Isles Airport (BQK, KBQK) is served by Delta Air Lines with several daily round trips to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The city was formerly served by DayJet, with service to cities in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia; the company suspended its operations in September 2008. Two railway lines run through the city: CSX and Norfolk Southern. The Golden Isles Terminal Railroad is a short line operating 12.6 miles (20.3 km) of mainline trackage between Anguilla Junction and the Colonel's Island and Marine Port terminals of the Port of Brunswick. This line connects with a line that originates in Old Town Brunswick at Anguilla Junction. Amtrak passenger service is available in Jesup, 40 miles (64 km) northwest of the city.

The original Sidney Lanier Bridge was a vertical lift bridge on U.S. 17 crossing over the Brunswick River and was opened on June 22, 1956. On November 7, 1972, the ship African Neptune struck the bridge, causing parts of the bridge to collapse, taking cars with it. The accident resulted in ten deaths. On May 3, 1987 the bridge was again struck by a ship, the Polish freighter Ziemia Bialostocka (ziemia Białostocka). A new cable-stayed bridge with the same name opened in 2003 to allow larger ships to enter the port and to eliminate the need for the drawbridge on U.S. 17. It is the longest-spanning bridge in Georgia. The elevation at the top of the support towers is .

Three federal highways pass through Brunswick: U.S. Route 17, U.S. Route 341, and U.S. Route 25. U.S. 17 runs north to south through the eastern part of town and is a four lane highway. U.S. 341 is multiplexed with U.S. 25 for almost the entire route and originates in Brunswick off of U.S. 17. Interstate 95 runs west and northwest of the city and U.S. Route 82 originates at the junction of U.S. 17 and State Route 303.

In 2006, Glynn County applied for approximately $930,000 for first-year funding for a transit service. The county and city match was for over $100,000 combined. The first year project would fund the purchase of up to four buses, two vans, signage, equipment, and facility improvements. The first-year application is still pending with the Georgia DOT and the Federal Transit Administration.

Health care

With over 1,320 employees and over 200 physicians, Southeast Georgia Health System is the main provider of health care in Brunswick and the surrounding area and is also the largest private employer in Brunswick. Southeast Georgia Health System's medical campus in the city offers a 316-bed full service hospital. Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick campus also has an alliance with the International Seafarer’s Center that provides first-class medical attention to seamen who come into the Brunswick port; the medical needs of approximately 15,000 international merchant seafarers are met each year.

Southeast Georgia Health System recently opened the Outpatient Care Center on the Brunswick campus. This six-story, 195,000 square foot building includes outpatient surgery and imaging services, the Cancer Care Center, a retail area, the Dick Mitchell Health Information Center, as well as physician offices and suites.

In 2004, the Brunswick campus was named Best Large Hospital in the State of Georgia by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.


The Brunswick News is one of two major daily newspapers serving Brunswick; the other is The Georgia Times-Union, a subsidiary of the Jacksonville-based Florida Times-Union. Brunswick has one free weekly newspaper delivered to most homes in Glynn County, The Harbor Sound (a free publication). The Islander is a weekly paper, member of the Georgia Press Association, and available at newsstands or by subscription.

The major AM radio stations in Brunswick are WSFN 790, an ESPN affiliate and primarily a sports station; WCGA 1100; WGIG 1440; and WMOG 1490, which are all news and talk stations. The city's FM stations include NPR affiliate WWIO 88.9, public radio WWEZ at 94.7 (St. Simons Island) and 97.5 (Brunswick), and commercial stations WAYR-FM 90.7, WBGA 92.7, WMUV 100.7, WSOL 101.5, WYNR 102.5, WWSN 103.3, WRJY 104.1, WXMK 105.9, and WHFX 107.7.

WPXC-TV, channel 21, an Ion affiliate, is the only broadcast television station in Brunswick. The station became an ABC affiliate in 1996, but in 2001, Allbritton Communications sold the station and, therefore, the station lost its affiliation. All major U.S. television networks are represented in Brunswick from Jacksonville- and Savannah-based television stations.

Brunswick has been featured in scenes from the films The View from Pompey's Head (1955), Conrack (1974), The Longest Yard (1974), and the documentary Criminalizing Dissent (2006).


  • Brunswick Georgia and the building of Liberty Ships, brochure published by Brunswick and Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Center

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