Cyrus Arden (Cy) Sutherland (1920–2008)

Cyrus Arden (Cy) Sutherland was a professor at the College of Architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), a leader in the movement to preserve the historic buildings of Arkansas, and a professional architect who designed numerous homes, libraries, churches, and school buildings in addition to directing historic restoration projects around the state.

Cy Sutherland was born on January 6, 1920, in Rogers (Benton County) to James William Sutherland and Lena McSpadden Sutherland. He became an Eagle Scout before graduating from Rogers High School. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Arkansas and the University of Iowa before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 during World War II. Rising to the rank of captain, he served in the Army Medical Corps at the Air Force Regional Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. (His brother, James, also served during the war, having enlisted before the start of the conflict.)

After the war ended, Sutherland began studying architecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in 1945. Sutherland was a student of the legendary Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School of modernist architectural design. Along with iconic figures such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Gropius is considered a pioneering master of the architectural field.

In 1949, Sutherland earned a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard. While in Boston, he worked for the firm of Coletti Brothers Architects from 1947 to 1952. It was at this time that Sutherland met artist Martha Slocum, whom he married in 1951. From 1953 to 1958, the couple lived in France and England, where Sutherland worked for an American architectural firm doing master planning and design for the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe.

After accepting a position in 1958 at UA, Sutherland helped build the university’s new architecture program into an accredited professional school alongside colleagues such as noted architect E. Fay Jones, who had apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright. Building the School of Architecture into a prestigious program, Sutherland taught there for thirty-two years until his retirement in 1990.

His contributions to UA outside the School of Architecture also included helping to establish the university’s Teaching Academy in 1989, a program to promote excellence in teaching and learning.

At the School of Architecture, Sutherland taught the program’s first courses in historic preservation and became renowned as an early leader in preservation efforts statewide. In the city of Fayetteville, he documented the notable homes in the Washington-Willow and Mount Nord historic districts. He also helped to preserve several Fayetteville landmarks, including the iconic Old Main building on the UA campus, Headquarters House, the Old Post Office, and the Walker-Stone House, as well as working to save the 1830s-era Sarah Bird Northrup Ridge House, which belonged to Sarah Northrup Ridge, the widow of assassinated Cherokee leader John Ridge.

From 1984 to 1987, he directed a historic resource survey of Benton County. About 3,000 properties were documented in the county, of which almost 150 were ultimately placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Part of his expertise was recognizing the origins and formal compositions of what were seen as humble Arkansas structures, unique buildings that might otherwise have been easily dismissed or destroyed.

Along with his colleague H. Gordon Brooks, Sutherland co-produced and narrated a three-part film series titled Arkansas: Its Architectural Heritage, 1800–1861. It was first broadcast by the Arkansas Educational Television Network (now Arkansas PBS) on January 12, 1981. The forty-five-minute color film featured commentary by Sutherland and Brooks along with guests including Dr. C. Fred Williams, professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

At UA, Sutherland earned the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986. He attained the academic rank of University Professor and was awarded emeritus status when he retired from the School of Architecture in 1990. He then began traveling throughout the state, interviewing property owners and taking photographs, material that would be used in his co-authored book Buildings of Arkansas. Published after Sutherland’s death, it was selected to be part of the award-winning “Buildings of the United States” series produced by the Society of Architectural Historians, an international professional organization.

Sutherland was active in a number of local, state, and national organizations, including the Arkansas State Review Board for Historic Preservation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Society of Architectural Historians. He was a founding member of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (later Preserve Arkansas), which honored him in 1989 by creating a scholarship in his name for students in the School of Architecture at UA.

His many awards and recognitions include the Parker Westbrook Award for distinction in historic preservation advocacy from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (1988); the Historic Preservation and Service Award from the Rogers Main Street Program (2000); and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Historical Association for his many contributions to the study, preservation, and teaching of Arkansas history (2002). In 2001, Sutherland was named as an adviser emeritus to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in 2008, he was made an ex-officio member of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas Board of Directors.

Sutherland died on November 15, 2008. He is buried at Oakley Chapel Cemetery in Rogers.

For additional information:
Cantrell, Andrea. “Cy Sutherland: Architect, Educator, Preservationist.” Flashback 73 (Spring 2023): 28–47.

“Cyrus Arden Sutherland.” (accessed February 22, 2023).

“Cyrus Sutherland: Architect, Educator and Preservationist.” University of Arkansas Digital Collections. (accessed February 22, 2023).

“Cyrus Sutherland, Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Preservationist, Dies at 88.” Arkansas Business, November 19, 2008. (accessed February 22, 2023).

“Cyrus Sutherland, Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Preservationist, Dies at 88.” University of Arkansas News, November 18, 2008. (accessed February 22, 2023).

Cyrus Sutherland Papers. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Finding aid online at (accessed February 22, 2023).

Harding, Thomas, with afterword by Cyrus Sutherland. One-Room Schoolhouses of Arkansas as Seen Through a Pinhole. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.

Sutherland, Cyrus, Gregory Herman, Jeannie Whayne, Jean Sizemore, and Claudia Shannon. Buildings of Arkansas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018.

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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