Charleston to pay quiet tribute to Philip Simmons

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The City of Charleston will pay tribute to wrought-iron artist Philip Simmons, who died Tuesday at the age of 97. Mayor Joe Riley, in a statement Tuesday said, ” The City will adorn with a white ribbon all Philip Simmons ironwork in its parks.  In memory of him, we invite all citizens to place a white ribbon on their wrought iron gates or railings, whether or not they are Philip Simmons’s pieces.”

Philip Simmons portrait by Claire Green

Simmons is known for his ornate iron scrollwork on gates and exteriors, which are known as a symbol for Charleston.  He has been honored by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, and received the Order of the Palmetto from the state of South Carolina.


The always gentle man served as the inspiration for the American College of the Building Arts. The only school of its type in the nation and only one of two in the world(the other is in France), the College of the Building Arts in Charleston was founded by John Paul Huguley, and inspired by Simmons.  The College was started 12 years ago, but after the initial startup and fundraising, began classes only four years ago, and the first class graduated last month.  Huguley says that as sick and tired as he was, Simmons still attended the ceremony, something for which he had waited many years.   He was brought in by ambulance.   Huguley says he will be missed by the entire college. 


Huguley says Simmons was honored by a number of governors and presidents.


Huguley comments that Simmons often said that while most people paint their wrought iron gates and fences black, he would have preferred that they were painted white.


 Mayor Riley says that Simmons “remained a humble man who inspired everyone he met with his optimism, his upbeat view of life, and his down-to-earth pearls of wisdom.”


The state’s blacksmith guild is named for Simmons, the Philip Simmons Artist-Blacksmith Guild of South Carolina.


(William Christopher contributed to this article)

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