Have you been to Downtown Millsboro lately? Nope, not through it. I'm talking about getting out of the car and allowing this historic town to charm you with an unexpected abundance of art, antiques and flavorful cuisine.
Originally home to Assateague and Nanticoke Indians, Millsboro became a thriving rural community for European settlers in the late 1600s. It was officially incorporated in William Penn's Lower Three Counties in 1792 when Elisha Dickerson dammed up the headwaters of the Indian River to build a grist mill.
The small village at the river's head, called Rock Hole Mills, a reference to the scores of rockfish that spawned in the area, was renamed Millsborough in 1809. The area to the southwest, now downtown Millsboro, was named Washington to honor our first president. The two villages merged in 1837, agreeing to the name Millsborough - later shortened to Millsboro - when the post office service reportedly informed residents that there were already several (too many) towns named Washington.
Millsboro has undergone considerable changes over the years, but local residents pride themselves on staying true to their hardworking roots. Arguably the town's most famous resident, the late Sen. John J. Williams, was called "the conscience of the Senate," and was respected by both his constituents and his peers as a man who worked diligently for the town, the state and the country. His former home, near the corner of Washington and State streets, is now the celebrated Williams Conference & Event Center.
Millsboro businesses have also changed over the years, but shopkeepers still work hard to provide quality products and services. D&D Stained Glass and Woodworking on Washington Street has a reputation as "the friendliest glass shop on the shore," and owner Deb Doucette doesn't disappoint. Her passion for her craft and her customers shines like the sunlight on the multicolored tiles she stocks in the store window. D&D offers a variety of classes in stained glass, mosaics and fusing to teach customers about this art form.
Just a few hundred yards away, on Main Street, the Millsboro Art League houses an array of works from local artists, craftsmen and artisans. With a mission to inspire passion for the creative arts, the organization offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes taught by some of the area's finest artists. Millsboro Art League also hosts a monthly Friday family fun night to promote art appreciation in the community.
When it's time to grab a bite to eat, downtown Millsboro delivers outstanding choices for every taste. Enjoy well-crafted drinks and fresh, creative cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere at Blue Water Grill. The exposed brick walls and intimate bar add to the stylish atmosphere in this eclectic Main Street standout. Don't feel like making dinner after a great day in Millsboro? No problem, Blue Water Grill's new meal prep service allows you to order packaged meals to go as well.
Georgia House, a longtime Southern Delaware favorite, serves up high-quality, down-home fare with local flair. The funky half-circle booths, friendly service and moist, delicious sweet potato rolls complete the pleasing dining experience. Still, you won't want to leave before trying one their delicious homemade desserts.
The Pint Pub & Eatery at the corner of State and Main streets is easily downtown Millsboro's quirkiest restaurant. Once a local bank, it has been renovated to carefully preserve many of the original details. As a special treat, you can even have your meal in the vault. The menu is traditional English/Irish/Scottish fare with the specialty being a boxty, a generous flat bread, stuffed with choices of meats and cheeses, and baked in a wood-fired oven. Go hungry, because you will certainly have your fill at this cozy corner pub.
To round out the day in Millsboro, you'll want to leave plenty of time to explore downtown's myriad antique shops, including Millsboro Bazaar on Main Street specializing in vintage fashions and costume jewelry. You'll be hard pressed to not find a treasure after perusing their impressive collection.
Fashion not your passion? Head to the Millsboro Antiques Mall on Washington Street for a mix of both utilitarian and whimsical finds. Multiple vendors provide a diverse mix of interesting items.
For the largest selection in downtown Millsboro, Main Street's Antique Alley, with nearly 12,000 square feet and three floors, offers a wide range of goods from over 40 dealers, each with their own unique focus.
Millsboro is a vibrant town that is sometimes overshadowed by our beach towns. It is well worth stopping to discover the unexpected history, heritage and culture hiding in plain sight.
As always, safe travels and please watch your speed as you travel through our small towns. Speed limits are enforced. To do more armchair exploring of Southern Delaware, go to VisitSouthernDelaware.com, then go take a ride.
Jody Dengler owns Sun Otter Tours with her husband Steve. Read more Tourist At Home columns at beachpaper.com/tags/tourist-home.