GM was pointed to a great resource the other day: The National Historic Geographic Information System. It sounds totally boring, yes! But what it is is a wonderful repository of census data going back to 1790. GM used this data to reconstruct the historic population totals for Georgetown going back into the early 20th century, and the results are surprising.
The first Census GM could find in the database that had coded the totals to a level below statewide was 1920. GM found the total population of Georgetown at that point to be 16,577. GM has some skepticism of that number, though. Unlike all the other years, he had to piece together the data from enumeration districts, not Census tracts. The fact that the total was so much higher than the other years suggests that this may not have been an accurate method.
So setting aside 1920, the story really begins in 1930. The population was 14,139. The population was 78% white and 22% black.
The total population inched up in 1940 to 14,958, with roughly similar racial demographics. But in 1950 two clear trends began. The total population dropped sharply, and the black population virtually disappeared. By that Census, the black population in Georgetown had already dropped from 3,258 to 1,841. By 1960 it was down to 509, or just 4% of the population.
GM was familiar with the story of the decline of Georgetown’s black population, but he had no idea there was such a large drop in the overall population as well. This reflects a similar story for the citywide numbers. The citywide numbers only stabilized in the 1990s, and started to climb back in the last ten years. Georgetown, however, appears to have rebounded in the 1980s and has been growing at a fast clip ever since.
But we’re still below the population totals of 1950 by a couple hundred residents. GM speculates that we probably actually have more buildings than we did in 1950, it’s just that many boarding houses and multi-family dwellings have been converted to single family homes, often occupied by only two people.