Cyrus Sutherland, Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Preservationist, Dies at 88

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Cyrus Arden Sutherland, professor emeritus of architecture and leader in the movement to preserve Arkansas’ historic buildings, died Saturday, Nov. 15, after a long illness. In addition to teaching and mentoring many students during his 32 years at the School of Architecture, Sutherland was instrumental in saving and preserving some 40 historically significant buildings in Arkansas and also designed homes, churches and libraries in northwest Arkansas.

Jeff Shannon, dean of the School of Architecture, said: “Cy Sutherland showed true leadership in bringing historic preservation to the forefront in Arkansas, and he educated numerous students about the importance of preserving our built heritage. He will be greatly missed.”

Cyrus Sutherland was born Jan. 6, 1920, in Rogers, Ark. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Arkansas and the University of Iowa before being drafted into the armed forces. He served at the Air Force Regional Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., throughout World War II and was discharged with the rank of captain. Sutherland subsequently earned a master’s degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1949.

While employed as an architect in Boston, Sutherland met Martha Slocum, an artist; they married in 1951. From 1953 to 1958 the couple lived in France and England, where Sutherland worked for an American firm doing master planning and design for the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe.

Cyrus Sutherland accepted a position at the University of Arkansas in 1958, becoming part of a team of outstanding professors who helped build the architecture program into an accredited professional school. His courses in ancient architectural history were enriched by two sabbaticals spent touring the former Roman empire in a Volkswagen van with his wife and three children. He documented some 130 triumphal Roman arches in a third sabbatical in 1985.

“Cy loved the classical world,” recalled Murray Smart, former dean of the School of Architecture. “He traveled extensively, and made those experiences an integral part of his courses here. Many students developed their love of history in his class, and everyone recognized what a splendid human being he was.”

Sutherland taught the School of Architecture’s first courses in historic preservation and was an early leader in preservation efforts in the state. He documented historic homes in Fayetteville’s Washington-Willow and Mount Nord historic districts and helped to preserve several Fayetteville landmarks, including Headquarters House, the Walker Stone House, the Old Post Office, Carnall Hall and Old Main. From 1984 to 1987 he directed a historic resource survey of Benton County, documenting some 3,000 properties; of these 145 properties were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the mid-80s, with colleague H. Gordon Brooks, Sutherland co-produced and hosted a three-part film series titled Arkansas: Its Architectural Heritage.

Sutherland was active in national, state and local historical organizations, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Arkansas State Review Board for Historic Preservation, the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Washington County and Benton County historical societies. He was a founding member of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, which honored him in 1989 by creating a scholarship in his name for School of Architecture students. He received the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986.

Sutherland achieved the rank of University Professor and was awarded emeritus status when he retired from the School of Architecture in 1990. He subsequently began traveling throughout Arkansas, interviewing homeowners, taking photographs and writing Buildings of Arkansas, one of 50 volumes in the Society of Architectural Historians’ Buildings of the United States series. Publication of the volume is expected in 2010.

Cy Sutherland has won numerous honors for his preservation work, including the Parker Westbrook Award for distinction in historic preservation advocacy from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (1988); the Historic Preservation and Service Award, Main Street Program, Rogers (2000); and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Historical Association (2002).

Developers Richard Alexander, Ted Belden, Robert Merry-Ship and John Nock made a gift of $50,000 to the School of Architecture in 2005 to establish the Cyrus and Martha Sutherland Endowment for Historic Preservation. In 2007 the University of Arkansas hosted a reception and banquet honoring Sutherland as part of a conference, “The Architecture and Landscapes of Arkansas: A Heritage of Distinction,” sponsored by the special collections department of the University of Arkansas Libraries and the School of Architecture. In 2001 Sutherland was made an adviser emeritus to the National Trust for Historic Preservation; in 2008 he was named an ex-officio member of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas Board of Directors.

Cy Sutherland is survived by his wife Martha; daughter Celia Slocum Wirth of Minneapolis, Minn.; sons Ian McSpadden Sutherland of Washington, D.C., and Winthrop Wren Sutherland of Austin, Texas; and one grandchild. A memorial service is planned at a later date. Memorials may be given to the Washington County Historical Society.

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