Love this picture! It is of my sister and cousins, 1962. Why this and the reference to Philip Simmons? Well, this is the picture, courtesy of my Aunt Joan, that helped date the railings to the house. During the blessing of the house, I asked her if she had any pictures of the house that would help us date the railings….a few hours later and we had this wonderful, vintage picture. Don’t you love the poses? But let me start at the beginning……
I have been surprised to discover so many people that don’t know who Philip Simmons is. His work adorns this beautiful city like jewelry. We see it every day and yet somehow we don’t see it. I certainly fell into this category of seeing his work but not fully appreciating it.
In the early stages of the project, Marc, our contractor and I were on the front porch and he said, “I think your railing might be the work of Philip Simmons.” How on earth can you tell? And he proceeded to give me a fairly detailed description of Simmons’ and his style. He suggested I contact the Philip Simmons Foundation to get confirmation. They did not have a record initially of this property included in his body of work. When he was alive, the official record of his work was his verbal confirmation as they rode by houses….”yes, I did that work; no, I didn’t do that…”. There was no record of our house. Many weeks later, a representative from the foundation and Philip Simmons nephews came to inspect the iron railings and confirmed they were in fact the work of Mr. Simmons. His unique style of a tight scroll throughout the railing was a signature style specific to him. They not only confirmed our property but also our neighbors. But, we didn’t have a date and they suspected the 1970’s or 80’s. I knew it was older than that and this picture helped confirmed it was done in the 50’s or early 1960.
It has been cleaned up, cemented into the steps and we are honored to know that Philip Simmons was here. Please take a minute to view this video. What a wonderful treasure he was to Charleston and the community. This youtube video is one of many available to learn more about Philip Simmons. This one was published when he was alive, but it represents him so well I wanted to include it for you.
About Philip Simmons
Born in 1912, Philip Simmons lived to be the rip old age of 97. He started out as a simple blacksmith and grew to become an American artisan specializing in the craft of ironwork. He started out working on practical items such as carriages and horseshoes, but eventually he began doing iron gates, railings, and beautiful works of art that are now often used to visually depict Charleston. He created over 600 separate pieces that, if you are lucky enough to possess, are considered treasures and works of art. In 1982, Simmons received the highest honor in the United States that is bestowed on a traditional artist, A National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 1994, he was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame.