Vollis Simpson’s Whirligig Park
Originally created in Lucama, North Carolina, now located in Wilson, North Carolina
Vollis Simpson (1919–2013) developed an early interest in machinery while helping his father move houses on large rollers. While stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, Simpson built his first windmill out of B-29 bomber parts and used it to power a washing machine. He returned to North Carolina and ran a machinery repair shop until his retirement, when he began constructing kinetic sculptures out of various machinery parts he had collected over the years. These sculptures resemble windmills or weather vanes, with the largest among them measuring almost forty feet tall. The “whirligigs,” as they were called, soon caught visitors’ attention and before long his family farm had become Vollis Simpson’s Whirligig Park, a top tourist attraction in the area.
In 2010 the city of Wilson, North Carolina, created a plan to restore Simpson’s creations and showcase them in a two-acre park. Simpson assisted with their relocation and restoration efforts until his death. Simpson’s work is included in several other collections as well, such as the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
Isaiah owns several pieces of art from the original site, which he purchased when he met Simpson in 1988. Vollis Simpson’s name appears in the orange windowsill in the Middle Gallery at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Biography and photos
Video segment for North Carolina Weekend (4 minutes; 2017)