Preservation Easements

A preservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner, who maintains the property according to federal guidelines, and a qualified organization, which approves changes to the property and enforces the terms of the easement. An easement protects a historic site in perpetuity.

In 1976, Landmarks Illinois (then called Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois) received its first easement: the Henry Demarest Lloyd house in Winnetka. In the early 1980s, Landmarks Illinois organized a formal preservation easement donation program and acquired easements on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and the Chicago Theater. Today, Landmarks Illinois protects nearly 550 historic properties across the state with preservation easements.


A preservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner and a qualified easement-holding organization such as Landmarks Illinois that protects a significant historic or cultural resource in perpetuity. Preservation easements are recognized as the strongest and only perpetual protection available for historic properties. The donation of a preservation easement is a commitment to the permanent protection of a significant historic property.

A preservation easement generally protects all exterior elevations of a structure. By donating an easement, the owner agrees to maintain the building and follow federal guidelines if they wish to make changes to the outside of the property. The owner further agree to obtain the approval of the easement-holding organization before making alterations to the property. Because the easement lasts in perpetuity, it binds future owners of the property as well.

The easement-holding organization, which legally enforces compliance with the easement, must be a qualified historic preservation organization and must have the resources and the commitment to manage and enforce the easements. Landmarks Illinois, which holds more than 500 easements statewide, monitors each of its easement properties on an annual basis and when necessary takes steps to ensure compliance with the easement.


Recognizing that the story of America’s heritage is largely told through its architectural legacy, Congress passed legislation in 1980 to provide a federal income tax deduction to owners of historic properties who donate preservation easements to qualified organizations. (Congress reaffirmed the preservation easement program in 2006.) Eligible structures must be part of a local or National Register of Historic Places historic district or individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Owners who donate a preservation easement to a qualifying nonprofit organization may be eligible for a charitable donation income tax deduction based upon an independent appraisal of the value of the easement. The determination of the allowable tax deduction is solely within the purview of the Internal Revenue Service. Prospective donors are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine the tax and legal consequences of a donation.


Owners of properties protected by a preservation easement are required to obtain the approval of Landmarks Illinois before making alterations to the protected elements of the property. Please contact Landmarks Illinois prior to commencement of any work to ensure that proposed maintenance and alterations are in accordance with the easement agreement. If necessary, you will need to complete a Request for Alterations Form.

Landmarks Illinois’ Easement Committee, a group comprised of historic preservation professionals, reviews proposed alterations to easement properties at their monthly meeting, which typically takes place the first Thursday of the month. The Request for Alterations Form and any additional materials need to be received by Landmarks Illinois at least one and a half weeks prior to the meeting.

We encourage you to refer to Landmarks Illinois’ Illinois Restoration Resource Directory when looking to make repairs and alterations.


Contact Suzanne Germann, Director of Grants and Easements, at (312) 922-1742 or email for more information.


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