Nestled in the Neck of North Central Neighborhood, Simons Street holds rich history to Charleston’s upper peninsula. Pronounced “SIMM-uns”, the street has seen lowlands filled, extensions of streets like Rutledge Avenue, and plantations come and go.
The original land was a 150-acre parcel granted to Henry Simons/Symons in 1672. In 1692, Simons received another grant for the adjacent tract that later became Sans Souci and Magnolia Umbra plantations. As a plantation in the colonial era, rice and indigo were grown on the land. During this era, 85 Simons Street was originally part of Sans Souci Plantation.
By 1719, John Watkins had the land. He conveyed part of the property to a free woman of color named “Free Judy”, who operated a boarding house near today’s King Street.
The property changed owners a handful of times until the 1890s before the land was filled and streets extended before being subdivided as residential lots. In 1895, Simons Street was created after Rutledge Avenue was extended northward.
Located between King Street and Rutledge Avenue, 85 Simons Street has not always had the same address. The original address was 19 Simons Street. As the city developed, streets were extended and addresses changes were common. At one time there were 2 lots addressed as 19 Simons Street, which were not located next to each other. The property had an earlier house on part of the lot which was replaced by the current home.
George Owens purchased several parcels along Simons Street between 1930 and 1939 and is responsible for constructing the Freemans Cottage in 1945. George Owens served the City of Charleston police force for 16 years, working his way up to Detective. The parcels he purchased later became homes to his children with all residing on Simons Street in the 1950s. George Owens later passed at his daughter’s home.
The house has been altered over the years to meet modern residential needs. In 2019, renovations began to restore the cottage back to its original charm. Removing twentieth-century materials and original asbestos siding has been replaced with composite siding, mimicking traditional siding with less maintenance. The railings on the front porch have been repaired and replaced, and entry steps rebuilt. The original foundation masonry has been retained.
As we work towards the future, we are pleased to have Christina R. Butler of Butler Preservation help preserve the history of 85 Simons Street. Keep an eye on our social media to see the renovation.
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