Halevy Hercules Simmons, also known as Hal, is a little known black architect who built major projects like the historic Adam’s Mark Hotel in St. Louis, MO. In the 1950’s, Simmons worked as a draftsman for the U.S. government. When a group of DC investors looked for the best draftsmen, they hired Simmons without an interview and only on his written resume. When he arrived they found out he was black. He was given an office near the penthouse to separate him from the white draftsmen. He was the only black draftsman in the building.
Hal Simmons was born to immigrants from the British West Indies and Barbados. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a housekeeper. He was raised in New York City under an integrated society. Simmons graduated from Howard University. While there he met his wife, and educated woman from Washington named Shirley Herbert.
In 1962, Simmons wrote a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., offering to rebuild the burned churches in Georgia for one dollar. The letter is now in the archives of The King Center in Atlanta, GA.
Simmons started his own architect firm on the east coast while owning a restaurant and bar simultaneously. When his firm and side businesses dissipated in the 1970’s, Simmons moved his family to St. Louis where he could find work. He was noticed by Fred Kummer, President and CEO of HBE Corporation. Kummer signed Simmons on as a lead architect of the Adam’s Mark Hotel in St. Louis. The hotel was completed in 1985. The two worked together for ten years until a disagreement over a technical issue caused Simmons to start his own business.
Architects like Simmons led the way for architect Curtis Moody, principal for Moody Nolan, the largest black-owned architectural firm in the country. Moody Nolan will design the new $251 million Malcolm X College campus in Chicago. The 500,000 sq. ft building will specialize in student education of health and sciences.
On April 9, 2013, Halevy Hercules Simmons passed away from heart disease.