The Sutherland House is really three houses, the first a one-room building built in 1838, and the Main House and Kitchen House between 1860 and 1862 for the family of George Washington Sutherland, Petersburg’s prominent grocer. It's seen it all, from the last great battle of the Civil War through the marches of the Civil Rights Movement, through its own decline and restoration as a beacon in the revitalization of a historic American City.
The dependency or “Kitchen House,” was constructed at the same time as the main house between 1860 and 1862. Originally the two first-floor rooms were a multi-function kitchen and a workshop. The second floor rooms were servant’s quarters. An original attached carriage house was destroyed by a powerful tornado that devastated downtown Petersburg in 1993.
In the immediate vicinity of the Sutherland house, there is a rich history from which one can narrate important chapters in the American story.
One block north, soldiers from the Norfolk Light Artillery Blues were stationed throughout the Civil War. Willie, the Sutherland’s then teenage daughter, kept an autograph book that evidences the soldiers’ frequent visits to house.
From This Old House Magazine: "My husband, Walt, and I first laid eyes on the Petersburg, Virginia, cottage while visiting our son Greg and daughter-in-law Marion, who live 2 hours north. They had bought the adjacent, larger house as a vacation getaway—and potential retirement spot for Walt and me.
After 140 years, Sutherland House was abandoned. For 15 years it sat empty, the elements taking their toll, and the City slated it for demolition. But in the year 2000 the house was saved and its ten-year restoration begun.
The gardens at Sutherland House make for an incredibly relaxing escape in the spring and summer for everyone, except perhaps for the hard-working gardeners. Roberta and Walt Purcell have lovingly creating magical spots throughout the property, using trees, shrubbery, flowers and a vegetable garden to keep us fully stocked with fresh cut bouquets and food for the table.
Petersburg was founded and settled by English colonists. By 1635 they had patented land along the south bank of the Appomattox River as far west as present-day Sycamore Street, and about 1 mile (1.6 km) inland.