Happy Birthday Philip Simmons!

June 10, 2009

Photo by Tom Pich (with permission from the Philip Simmons Foundation)

A Charleston icon and long-time friend of Daniel Island is celebrating his 97th birthday this week. Master blacksmith Philip Simmons was born right here on Daniel Island on June 9, 1912.

His birthday gives us reason to reflect upon the artistic influence Mr. Simmons has had on Daniel Island and Charleston. To start with, anyone who has seen the Daniel Island logo is familiar with Mr. Simmons’ work – he custom designed the popular insignia when plans for developing the island first began.

The Daniel Island logo in Simmons Park.

The Daniel Island logo in Simmons Park.

“The Palmetto tree represents the state tree, the wavy lines at the bottom of the tree represent the rivers and creeks I fished in as a kid growing up on the island, and the large scrolls represent the waves of the nearby Atlantic Ocean,” Mr. Simmons explained during a visit to the island several years ago. He still enjoys visiting and talking about his “home town,” and he has made appearances here at special events like the Family Circle Cup and Park Day over the years.

Mr. Simmons left Daniel Island at the age of eight to attend school in downtown Charleston. It was here that he met a local blacksmith, became an apprentice and eventually put his creative talents to work. Today his original ironwork designs are on display in private collections and museums around the country.

Here in Charleston, all you have to do is take a walk around town to view his work (click here for a map). On Daniel Island, Simmons Park is a prominent park at the center of town that includes an original gate and reproduction of his Daniel Island logo design. Wander around downtown Charleston and you’ll see his original ironwork everywhere, particularly the famous gates that grace homes and civic buildings throughout the peninsula.

Much has been done to preserve the legacy of Mr. Simmons’ work. The Philip Simmons Foundation was created over 15 years ago to raise money to develop a commemorative garden in his honor at St. John’s Reformed Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. More recently, the Foundation has been raising funds to restore Mr. Simmons’ downtown home and workshop as a National Historic Site. The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the property among the top 11 most endangered places in America in 2007, and the Foundation has been successful in securing several grants to get the restoration project off the ground.

In honor of Mr. Simmons’ birthday this week, we’ve put together the following photo gallery highlighting some of his work and previous visits to Daniel Island. Happy Birthday Philip!