East Side Charleston: Where the Deep Roots of Community Live

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

“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)

Philip Simmons (1912 – 2009)

Philip Simmons is one of the most celebrated blacksmiths of the 20th century.? Born in the Wando area of Daniel Island, his influence on Charleston and the country is a symbol of the structural bond the East Side has.? That influence is readily seen in the streets and parks of the East Side.

His legacy is a reminder of the importance the East Side has in the Charleston diverse and evolving cultural ecosystem.? As I walked the streets of the East Side, I saw faces on a fences in a photographic expose entitled East Siders Matter:? Faces of a Neighborhood in Transition.? As I looked deep into the eyes of the portraits I saw pain and hope.? I saw a neighborhood rich in history, solidified by a common struggle and strong in faith.

The East Side is a proud neighborhood with a supportive foundation and like the work of a professional blacksmith, is rooted with strength and the commitment that it will remain for a very long time.

As I walked the streets on Sunday morning, watching the churches fill up, the residents sitting on their steps talking, dogs out with their owners and a moment of solace in the air, I saw an area that is overflowing with pride.

Take a walk with me and see the inner beauty of the East Side of Charleston.

Philip Simmons lives on in the street art

The Simmons Park offers a safe haven for children and adults to play.

A community struggling for identity stands strong

The lines of life in their faces show hope, promise and love.

East Siders even find art and beauty in waste.

The legacy of Philip Simmons lives on forever.

Everyone is welcome on the East Side.

Time to relax with a good book on the porch.

Growth local produce in the Community Center Garden.

The garden is supported proudly by the Boys and Girls Club.

Stop on in for a little local soul food.

The children are our future.

If you need your hair done, come to Julia’s.

If you want to witness true humanity, go to the park that bares the statue of Philip Simmons on Sunday at 12:30 and observe the Pot Luck Homeless lunch.? In fact, come a little early and donate your time to help become closer to the community.

The East Side is a small and proud neighborhood, where you can go to the Palace Hotel Bar and see Shepard Fairey spin on DJ, have a bite of soul food to eat at Hannibal’s Kitchen, check out a band at The Royal American or attend a service with the locals.? It is filled with wonderful and caring people.? Take a trip off the beaten path and spend some time on the East Side.