A few weeks back, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, we made our way downtown to explore. We didn’t have any real plans, but I had seen on the Philip Simmons Foundation website that they had both a museum and a Saturday afternoon demonstration; I had decided that if it worked out, we would try and stop by.
I’ve been fascinated with the life and work of Philip Simmons since I first saw his portrait by Molly B. Right, bottle camp portrait artist, in the Ashley River Tower at the Medical University of South Carolina (portrait below).
I learned quickly that Mr. Simmons was the most celebrated of Charleston ironworkers of the 20th Century. I love how Stephanie Hunt, of the Charleston Magazine, describes Mr. Simmons in her article from June 2009, the month he passed away: “You’d be hard-pressed to find a Charlestonian more beloved than Simmons. He’s the darling of preservationists, the epitome of artistry, the king of craftsmanship, and the hallmark of humility. And besides all that, he’s just plain endearing.”
If you have ever visited Charleston, you know that beautiful ironwork adorns the streets welcoming locals and visitors like arms opened wide. Considering the type of man that Mr. Simmons was, it would be easy to say he is partially responsible for all of this hospitality!
Since it was a beautiful morning and we had some time before the ironworking demonstration, we decided to first take a stroll around the Peninsula to see what we could find on our own of Mr. Simmon’s “hearts, gates, and grates.” The Foundation even provided a map with a sampling of his work. Of course, if you are interested in something more official, there are a handful of walking tours you can sign up for.
Here is the Heartgate, which is at the entrance to Philip Simmons Garden at 91 Anson Street (please note that I am borrowing this picture from the Philip Simmons Foundation Website).
After searching out a handful of his pieces, I was beyond excited about seeing his home, which is now a museum, and watching the demonstration.
I can’t wait to share with you about our experience at Mr. Simmons’ home and shop, but I will save that for next week since this blog has already gotten long. But, in the meantime, be sure to check out these resources to learn more about Mr. Simmons and his work; I think you find his legacy as endearing as those who knew him personally.