Philip Simmons’ ironworks featured in local and national museums

Treasured locally and recognized nationally for his talents, master blacksmith Philip Simmons’ ironwork is on display at the International African American Museum (IAAM) in downtown Charleston, which opened its doors just six months ago. 
The IAAM received a donation of an iron window grate from a house on East Bay Street downtown, owned by Charleston residents Judy and Dalton Brasington. According to a public email from the museum, the matching grates were made by Simmons for the Brasington home. 
“We are humbled to be the home to these unique pieces of Simmons’s ironwork, and we are beyond grateful for your continued support in bringing this place to life,” IAAM President Tonya Mathews wrote in the email.
Simmons, born on Daniel Island in 1912, crafted over 1,000 wrought iron pieces throughout his life. Across the Charleston landscape, his work is embedded in various gates, benches, and decorative art that graces many homes, churches, and buildings around the city. 
“Charleston, from end to end, is truly decorated by his hand,” the IAAM website states. 
The Charleston museum also features an iron gate display crafted by Simmons. According to IAAM media relations assistant Ashton Raymer, the piece is on a temporary loan courtesy of the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.  
Simmons’ ironwork is not just displayed in his native city. His craftsmanship can also be found in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C. An exhibit dedicated to Simmons, titled “Passing on the Tradition,” includes a gate originally from Poulnot Lane in Charleston. 
Rossie Colter, project administrator at the Philip Simmons Foundation, said the NMAAHC purchased the gate from the foundation. 
“We had a driveway gate from 18 Poulnot Lane, given to us by the original owner Mary Ritchie Tutterow when she sold her house and moved into assisted living.” 
Colter explained that the NMAAHC museum contacted the foundation about gathering pieces for the Simmons exhibit, and they came down to purchase the gate. 
“It was a special trip before Mr. Simmons died, so they had the chance to meet him and approve the piece to go in the museum.” 
Additionally, the museum acquired a piece by Carlton Simmons, Philip Simmons’s nephew. His ironwork is also featured in Charleston’s IAAM, which showcases two wrought iron hearts as well as the gates on the exterior of the museum building. 
Colter describes the museum gates as representing the journey of African Americans throughout history. “On one side there’s fish in the gate, representing how we came here from the bottom of the ships. On the other side is a butterfly appearing to fly away, symbolizing how we get on our feet and move forward.”

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