45 years of protecting historic places through preservation easements

(Photo: Members of the Landmarks Illinois Easement Committee conduct a site inspection last summer at the easement-protected property, the Battledeck House in Highland Park.)

MARCH 24, 2021

BY Suzanne Germann, Landmarks Illinois Director of Grants & Easements

(This article was originally published in the February 2021 edition of The Arch newsletter.)

After accepting its first preservation easement in 1976, Landmarks Illinois organized a formal easement donation program in the early 1980s. Today, Landmarks Illinois protects 540 historic properties across the state through this program. The dedicated members of Landmarks Illinois’ Easement Committee ensure the protection of these properties in perpetuity.

The Easement Committee has two main roles: To make recommendations to the Board of Directors for the acceptance of easement donations and to review proposed alterations to easement-protected properties. In the early years of the easement program and through the early 2000s, the main role of the committee was reviewing proposed easement applications. It considered the historic significance, integrity and condition of the building when making its recommendations. In recent years, the committee’s main responsibility has been to review proposed alterations to protected properties.

The committee is comprised of architects, contractors, historians and attorneys who all work within the field of preservation. Suzanne Germann, who staffs the committee, considers the members a resource for all easement property owners. Not only do committee members attend monthly meetings, they also donate their time and expertise by meeting with property owners on site to work through specific issues. They take the time to meet Landmarks Illinois staff and property owners on location to view mock-ups, offer technical assistance or share their knowledge of historic building materials. The committee has met with new property owners to discuss how to expand their home within the constraints of the easement. Several members of the committee with expertise in masonry recently met with an owner to determine a restoration plan for their sandstone rowhouse.

(Photo: Landmarks Illinois first easement property, the Henry Demarest Lloyd house in Winnetka)

The easement program would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of the Easement Committee members. Landmarks Illinois strives to have a diverse knowledge base on the committee to be able to address any issue that comes its way. Over the past 15 years, more than 40 professionals have contributed their skills to Landmarks Illinois through their volunteer work for the easement program.

Landmarks Illinois appreciates the time and expertise that longtime committee member Ed Gerns, an architect with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates has provided for the easement program. Ed said the following about being part of the committee: “To be involved with such a dedicated and passionate group of individuals is an honor. The group has always worked very hard in our role as stewards of these historic properties on behalf of Landmarks Illinois and giving back to the preservation community is a small contribution to preservation in Illinois.”

Jack Tribbia from Berglund Construction has provided his steady manner in managing the review process for requests for alterations as Chairman of the Committee during his two terms on Landmarks Illinois’ Board of Directors. “It’s an honor to be associated with a group of talented industry leaders, working together to share knowledge to provide building maintenance guidance for current stewards of historic properties,” Jack said.

Landmarks Illinois has greatly benefitted from the contributions of Ed and Jack and all of the dedicated committee members over the years.

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