Ms. Crawford – A One Room Home (1838 – 1860 = 22 years)
The earliest reference to a structure standing at 606 Harding Street is in a deed transfer dated April 1838 in which S. P. Vial conveyed real estate to Rosa L. Crawford “for the kindness he bore toward [her],” for her use “as a home.” The trustees of Rosa Crawford sold the property to George Washington Sutherland in 1860. An early insurance map may give a clue to the date of the Crawford House; the map includes the date 1838 connected by an arrow pointing to the one -room one-story structure that subsequently became a wing of the main house. The assessed value of the improvements on the lot at the time of the 1860 sale amounted to $1,800. Two years later, the value rose to $7,300, indicating that the Crawford House was quite modest compared to the $5,500 dwelling that was built by Sutherland between 1860 and 1862.
The Sutherlands (1860 – 1898 = 38 years)
George Washington Sutherland was born in 1823, and may have been related to a well-connected country store- owning family in the nearby town of Sutherland in Dinwiddie County. Sutherland married Prudence M. A. Archer in 1850, when he was 27 years of age and she was 21. Like many merchants in Virginia cities, they lived for several years above their wholesale and retail grocery store on Bank Street, a primary thoroughfare in “Old Towne” Petersburg. The Bank Street buildings remain intact and in commercial use. Newspaper notices reveal that two of the Sutherland children died in early childhood while in residence at the Bank Street property.
The Sutherlands likely began construction of their new home on Harding Street in 1860, months before indications of war on the horizon may have discouraged the endeavor, and they continued construction as the first shots of the conflict were being fired. In 2011 Douglas W. Sanford, Professor and Prince B. Woodard Chair of the Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia conducted documentary research on George Washington Sutherland and visited the Sutherland property twice as part of his study of urban slave buildings in Virginia. In reviewing the 1860 census Dr. Sanford found that in George Sutherland was then 37 and Prudence was 28. They had two sons, Williams (age 8) and James H. (age 6). Working for Sutherland in 1860 and living in his household (likely in the downtown property) were four employees, three of whom were clerks: John H. Turner (age 18), born in Virginia; Jonathan McGregor (age 22), born in Scotland; Emmett Caldchugh (age 15), born in North Carolina; and, Onavia Slaughter (age 33), listed as a tobacco stemmer. Sutherland’s real estate value was evaluated at $15,000 and his personal estate was valued at $15,000 – both substantial sums for the period.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, Dr. Sanford also found that Sutherland was a slave owner in 1860, having 4 slaves. According to the census he owned three females, all black (as compared to mulatto – another category the government tracked), ages 20, 18, and 18. The 20-year old female is noted as “a fugitive from the State”, meaning that she had run away. He also owned 1 male slave, a 1-year old boy, most likely a child of one of the women. It is likely that the dependency built on Harding Street is where these four persons slept, ate, prepared meals and did laundry for the household. Prior research by Dr. Sanford revealed that the average slave ownership in downtown Petersburg was 3.43 slaves per household. Most owners (54%) had only 1 slave (statistically, the median value), but 6% of the owners in the same section of the city held 10 or more slaves.
War on the Doorstep
On March 2, 1864, as the fighting approached Petersburg, Sutherland enlisted in the Confederate Army and served as a private in Captain Edward Graham’s Company, the Virginia Horse 5 Artillery Unit. Three and a half months later, the first attacks on Petersburg resulted in heavy Union casualties and were followed by a nine-month Union siege of the city and its outskirts all the way to Richmond, the longest of any American city in history.
The Sutherlands’ teenage daughter Willie resided at the Sutherland home during the war, including throughout the siege. Willie compiled an autograph book in which she collected signatures, poetry, wit and well wishes from family and friends who visited her home. Numerous entries appear from Civil War soldiers, including many from the Norfolk Light Artillery Blues, a division stationed one block away. In 2008, National Park Service staff from the Petersburg Battlefield researched and documented the military records of many of the contributors to the autograph book.
It should be noted that the extended Sutherland and Archer clans were engaged in the war. Fletcher H. Archer, a lawyer, raised a battalion of Virginia Reserves, composed mostly of men either too young or old for regular duty. On June 9, 1864, the Reserves helped to successfully defend the city at what is commonly referred to as the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys. After the war, Archer served as president of the Petersburg City Council and later as mayor when William E. Cameron, the previous mayor, became governor.
U.S. President Andrew Johnson pardoned Sutherland for his service as a Confederate soldier in September 1865, on the same day as he pardoned Thomas Wallace, in whose parlor Lincoln had his final meeting with Grant two blocks from the Sutherland residence several months before. In 1884, Sutherland took ill with the milder form of typhus. Word from Petersburg that “George W. Sutherland, one of our oldest merchants, is ill with slow fever,” was published in media as distant as the Baltimore Sun, a testament to the prominence he had achieved in Petersburg. He died the same year at age 61. Prudence would survive him by 14 years.
The Hites (1898 – 1926 = 28 years)
In 1870, Sutherland built a house for his daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law adjacent to his own home on a quarter acre he subdivided at the southeast corner of the Sutherland lot. In Petersburg on June 6, 1871, Willie Sutherland, 19, married Robert Moore Hite, 29, who was a clerk and native of Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Upon Prudence’s death in 1898, the Sutherland house passed to the Hites. At Willie’s death 20 years later in 1918 — she had outlived Robert — the property passed to their daughter, Effie M. Hite. The house Sutherland built for the Hites on the adjacent lot, which became 614 Harding Street, was abandoned and much abused by intruders and the elements in recent years. Squatters stripped the house of all historic features, and neglect caused partial collapse of the structure, robbing it of its potential for meaningful restoration. In 2011 the Werkheisers purchased the property, demolished the house, and reunited the original Sutherland lots such that the property appears now much as it did during its period of historic significance.
The Logans (1926 – 1985 = 66 years)
On February 13, 1926, after 66 years of ownership by the Sutherland and Hite families, Effie M. Hite sold the property to William and Effie B. Logan, whose son, Thomas P. Logan, D.D.S., M.D., became one of the first African-American dentists in Petersburg. The Logans owned the house for the subsequent 55 years. For several years in the late 1970s and into the mid-1980s, the Logans rented the home to Scarlotte Hunley. Her occupancy is noteworthy in that she raised many of her 11 natural children and estimated 40 foster children in the Sutherland house. Two of her boys, Ricky Hunley and Lamonte Hunley, went on to play in the National Football League. Ricky became executive vice president of the NFL Players Association and a defensive coach for multiple franchises.
The Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission documented the Sutherland house and property in 1975. In 1976, the property was described and photographically depicted in the book “Old Petersburg.” A kitchen fire in the dependency made it uninhabitable after 1985.
Abandonment (1985 – 2000 = 15 years)
The property was sold to Jada Reynolds and soon thereafter was abandoned. For the subsequent 15 years, both the main house and the dependency remained vacant. At one point the City of Petersburg condemned the house and scheduled it for demolition. In 1991, the property was included in “African-Americans in Petersburg,” an inventory of architectural resources significant for their association with African-American history because of the survival of its dependency.
The Tidys (2000 – 2005 = 6 years)
In 2000, Jeannie and Craig Tidy purchased the property and began a sensitive and extensive restoration of the main house. Jeannie Tidy hailed from from New Orleans, and after Hurricane Katrina devastated that city, she and Craig returned there to aid in its revival.
The Werkheisers & Purcells (2006 – present = 10 years)
In 2006, Marion and Greg Werkheiser purchased the property. The Werkheisers are the founders of Cultural Heritage Partners, LLC, a preservation law and policy consulting firm. From 2006 through 2012 they also served as founders of The Phoenix Project, a nonprofit organization with a mission of encouraging social entrepreneurship as a strategy for recovery in Petersburg and other economically devastated communities. The Phoenix Project later formed the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at George Mason University.
Mr. Werkheiser’s parents, Walt and Roberta Purcell, helped complete the restoration of the main house and dependency by 2011. In 2011 Sutherland House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Virginia Historic Landmark.
In June 2011 archaeologists conducted a modest Phase 1 investigation of the property, including test pits to a depth of eighteen inches. Glass and pottery from the early Colonial period was recovered. From the Civil War period were recovered bullets, buttons, a skeleton key and piece of a harmonica, and children’s toys. Late 19th through mid 20th century items found included iron agricultural implements, medicine bottles, marbles, a pocket watch and other evidence of the property’s continued domestic use.