Philip Simmons was a poet that used ironwork to express his emotion. He died a renowned blacksmith and one of Charleston‘s most well-know ambassadors. I had the honor of working on a plant hanger under his direction on a trip to Charleston while an undergrad in Architecture at UVA.
He practiced his craft for 77 years. He transitioned from the days of making horseshoes and other practical items to being an artist at an anvil. His work on gates around the city add to the character of the gardens and to the historic character found only in this place. An attempt to catalog all his works turned up more than 500 separate iron gates, fences, columns, window grills, and other works. His work can be seen at the Charleston International Airport, the gates outside of the Charleston Visitors Center, the egret gates at Waterfront park, the Gadsden House gate at 329 East Bay St, and the heart gates at his church, St John’s Reformed Episcopal Church at 91 Anson St.
In my time with him, he explained that the quality of coal had diminished and he could no longer get the fire hot enough to make his work easier. He was particular about how you held the iron and how you struck it. He knew the secrets held within the materials and just how to get the emotion he was creating out of it.
Philip Simmons was a true artist, I thank him for contributing to the beauty of my favorite architectural destination.