The owners of Georgetown’s landmark Brick Hotel are closing the Sussex County business and its restaurant on Aug. 28 and plan to lease the building to the state Department of Justice.
The DOJ on Oct. 1 will move its Sussex County offices into the building located in an historic area of town known as The Circle.
The Department of Justice is home to Delaware’s attorney general, the state’s chief law enforcement officer. The current home of the Sussex office also is in Georgetown at 114 E. Market St. The cost of the move and any potential renovations is not yet known.
“The town hopes that whatever happens with the building, it stays as a beautiful attribute on our Circle,” Georgetown’s Town Manager Gene Dvornick said Tuesday.
The Circle is the center of activity for the town of Georgetown which in 2019 had a population of 7,259. It’s also where the biennial, only-in-Delaware Return Day festivities are held after Election Day.
Since at least the end of the 18th century, voters have gathered in The Circle to hear a town crier announce election results. A parade is held with bands, political opponents riding together in carriages and an ox roasted at an open pit barbecue outside the County Courthouse.
The day also features the ceremonial burying of a hatchet in sand to mark the end of the campaign season.
During Return Day and throughout the year, guests and residents gather at the Brick Hotel, a stately, three-story Federal and Greek revival structure built in 1836.
It is one of Sussex County’s oldest brick buildings.
The Brick Hotel has been run as an inn and restaurant for the past 12 years by Ed and Lynn Lester.
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings called The Brick Hotel “one of our state’s crown jewels.”
“The Brick Hotel is an iconic Sussex County landmark and among Delaware’s most beautiful historic properties,” Jennings said in a prepared statement.
“Because of that history, and the meticulous work its owners have put into restoring the building, it was also at the top of our wish list as the Department of Justice searched for a new Sussex County office.”
The Brick Hotel had once been slated for demolition to make room for the state’s Chancery Court building, but it was eventually saved from the wrecking ball in a land swap.
Through the years, it has been a temporary courthouse, a meeting place for northern sympathizers during the Civil War, and the home of an old Wilmington Trust branch for 40 years.
Lynn and Ed Lester purchased it in 2008 and began major historic restorations on the 14-room hotel. When it first opened, a restaurant on site was called Tavern on the Circle at the Brick Hotel.
In recent years, it has been home to The Counting House Restaurant & Pub run by chef/owner Bill Clifton. Formerly the head chef at the Henlopen City Oyster House in Rehoboth Beach, Clifton also is known for being featured on a 2019 episode of the Food Network’s popular “Beat Bobby Flay” show.
Lynn Lester said despite relief grants, the coronavirus pandemic and state-mandate restrictions on social distancing have taken their toll on the hospitality business.
“It is going to take a long, long time to recover,” she said in a prepared statement.
When the state approached the Lesters about leasing the property, she said ” well, timing is everything.”
Ed Lester said the couple will “miss having the best seats in town for Return Day and other Georgetown events.”