photo by Claire Y.Greene
(1912 - 2009)
Profession: Blacksmith

"Philip Simmons is a poet of ironwork. His ability to endow raw iron with pure lyricism is known and admired throughout, not only in South Carolina, but as evidenced by his many honors and awards, he is recognized in all of America."
-John Paul Huguley
Founder, School of the Building Arts (now the American College of the Building Arts)

Born June 9, 1912, in Wando on Daniel Island, near Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, where he was reared by his grandparents. At age 8, he was sent to Charleston (via the ferry), to live with his mother on Vernon Street and enroll in the first class at Buist School.

At the time, the school on Daniel Island offered limited education because it was an agriculture and fishing community. It was open for only three months and teachers were difficult to keep.

While walking to and from school young Philip noticed the ironwork and became intrigued with it. The neighborhood was a Mecca for craftsmen who serviced the waterfront businesses. He began visiting the blacksmith shops, pipefitters, shipwrights, coppers, and other craftsmen in the area. However, the sounds of the blacksmith shops interested him the most.

Philip Simmons, was the most celebrated of Charleston ironworkers of the 20th Century. He received his most important education from local blacksmith Peter Simmons (no relation), who ran a busy shop at the foot of Calhoun Street. It was in that environment where Philip Simmons acquired the values and refined the talents that would sustain him throughout his long metalworking career.

Moving into the specialized fields of ornamental iron in 1938, Simmons fashioned more than five hundred decorative pieces of ornamental wrought iron: gates, fences, balconies, and window grills. The city of Charleston from end to end is truly decorated by his hand.


In 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him its National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor that the United States can bestow on a traditional artist. This recognition was followed by a similar award from the South Carolina state legislature for “lifetime achievement” and commissions for public sculptures by the South Carolina State Museum and the city of Charleston. Simmons was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach, SC on January 31, 1994. “The Order of the Palmetto”, South Carolina’s highest award, was presented to him on August 11, 1998 by Governor David Beasley. In 2001, Philip Simmons received the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for “Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.” And on May 12, 2006, he was the recipient of the Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

25th Wedding Anniversary Gift for Mr. & Mrs. Alphonso Brown

Pieces of his work have been acquired by the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM; the Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC, and the Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, GA. In 1989, the vestry and congregation of his church (St. John’s Reformed Episcopal Church, 91 Anson Street in downtown Charleston), dedicated the grounds of the church to develop a commemorative landscaped garden as a tribute to his exceptional mastery of wrought iron and in recognition of his inspirational character and self assurance. Other works can be seen on Daniel Island, the Governor’s Mansion and the Matthew J. Perry Federal Courthouse in Columbia, Liberty Square, the Charleston Visitor Center, and in the main corridor of the Charleston International Airport.


Philip Simmons went to his rewards on June 22, 2009 at the age of 97. He spent most of his time after retiring from active forging (until his health began to fail) greeting the tourist who visited his shop and having Q&A sessions with the students and organizations he visited around the state. His craft is being continued at his shop through the hands of his apprentices, Carlton Simmons (nephew) and Joseph “Ronnie” Pringle (cousin), His home will be a museum house with a gift shop and is scheduled to open in 2010.

Mr. Simmons was a widow and had three children (one daughter is deceased). He lived on the eastside of Charleston since arriving in 1919. He always was a kind and gentle human being who was willing to share his experiences and wisdom with anyone he met. A professional, whose work was his only advertisement, left a legacy of excellence and pride in ones work to the youth and other professionals around the country.

- John Michael Vlach, Author, "Charleston Blacksmith: "The Work of Philip Simmons" & the Philip Simmons Foundation, Inc.

For Additional Information:
Philip Simmons Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box, 21585, Charleston, SC 29413-1585


Philip Simmons listed among notables who died in 2009 in USA TODAY's Art Category.
Click here to view the article.

Craft in America: A journey to the artists, origins and techniques of American craft

Two original episodes, Origins and Process, will air in high definition, nationwide on PBS, Wednesday, October 7, 2009, from 8 - 10 PM.

Origins features Philip Simmons at age 96 and the American College of the Building Arts. If you missed this airing, check your local listings for re-broadcasts in your area.
Click here to view the Craft in America website.

Master Blacksmith
June 9, 1912 - June 22, 2009

"If you want your prayers answered, get up off your knees and hustle."
Philip Simmons' favorite quote

Links to Articles & Tributes

South Carolina Radio Network: "Charleston to pay quiet tribute to Philip Simmons" by Ashley Byrd

Charleston Magazine: "A Tribute to: Philip Simmons" by Stephanie Hunt

Charleston Magazine: "Editor's Pick" by Darcy Shankland

Post & Courier: "A jazzy person who didn't play jazz" by Jack McCray

ETV Road Show Video Tribute to Mr. Simmons

Anvil Ring in Memory of Mr. Simmons

Interview with Mr. Simmons

Post & Courier Article: "A Life's Work Remembered" by Schuyler Kropf

Post & Courier Article: "Forging Forward: Philip Simmons Remembered" by Robert Behre

Post & Courier Article: "Philip Simmons' Inspiration"

Charlotte Observer: "Renowed Charleston blacksmith dies"

NBC Local Channel 2 Video: "Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons dies at age 97"

Page on Philip Simmons

Charleston City Paper: "Farewell to Philip Simmons" by Erica Jackson

Daniel Island's My Island Town: Article & Photo Gallery

Sunhead Projects' Tribute to Mr. Simmons

Philip Simmons Tribute from Sunhead Projects on Vimeo.

Happy Birthday Mr. Simmons!
Mr. Simmons turned 97 on June 7th. See the video below for a clip from his birthday celebration.

Fired Up & Focused! from Sunhead Projects on Vimeo.

Simmons' Home & Workshop Named One of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Philip Simmons' home and workshop in Charleston, SC as one of the eleven most endangered historic places in America.
Click to download the full news release. (PDF format)

Simmons' Forge on Blake Street

For Books and Video about Mr.Simmons, please visit THE SIMMONS SHOP.










































































































Philip Simmons Foundation, Inc.
30 1/2 Blake Street, Charleston, SC 29403
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