Adventures written by the VAMONDE Team
56 Society Street is the home of one of the country's most notable transgender people. Dawn Pepita Simmons, previously known as Gordon Langley Hall, was born in England, moved to Canada, and eventually found herself in the Ansonborough neighborhood of Charleston in the 1960s.
Hall became a published author of several biographies but was known to lead a very secretive gay life. He underwent a sex reassignment operation at John Hopkins in 1968 and returned to Charleston as Dawn Pepita. Soon after her arrival, Dawn married her younger black male servant, John Paul Simmons, which led to stressors and issues in a heavily segregated city that later led to mental problems for John Paul. Dawn authored several books and biographies during her lifetime: Princess Margaret (1958); Jacqueline Kennedy: A biography (1964); Mr. Jefferson's Ladies (1966); Man into Woman: a Transexual Autobiography (1971); Dawn: A Charleston Legend (1995); and several others. Through her work, Dawn has become known as a prolific English author and biographer.
During his 20s in New York, Hall met Margaret Rutherford, who became enchanted with him and, with her husband, Stringer Davis, adopted him. During this same time, Mr. Hall befriended the painter Isabel Whitney, who left him $2 million at her death in 1962. Not long after her death, Hall moved to Charleston and settled into a faded 1840 house on Society Street in the Ansonborough section, which had a large gay population. Dawn's time in Charleston has become documented in biographies and the stir that was created in the coastal town is still remembered today.
Cover photo by Landis Brown via Unsplash.