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Easements

Protect your property's historic nature for the long term.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy considers preservation easements to be the strongest and best tools to assure the long-term preservation of qualifying historic structures. Preservation easements provide a higher level of legal protection and enforcement of preservation principles than any other method, including listing on the National Register of Historic Places, landmark status, historic district restrictions or local regulations. The easement’s restrictive covenants are enforceable in state and federal courts by the easement-holding organization.

By placing an exterior, interior or other easement on a property, a building owner is assured that future owners will be legally required to conform with the protections contained in the easement, limiting alterations that can be made to the property. A preservation easement is recorded with the property deed and “runs with the land.” In other words, it is not affected by changes in ownership.

Easements are donated to qualified organizations such as the Conservancy, which then have the responsibility to monitor the protected structure and ensure that it is preserved. That responsibility can include legal action when necessary to enforce the easement. For that reason the Conservancy, like other easement-accepting organizations, maintains an easement monitoring fund. All donors of easements are asked to contribute to the fund at the time of the donation so that the organization will have the legal and financial resources to defend and enforce the easement. The Conservancy monitors the easements by:

  • Reviewing any plans to make changes before they are made
  • Visiting the houses on a rotating basis approximately every two years
  • Having a network that keeps an eye on the properties between monitoring visits.

It is the Conservancy’s goal to act in partnership with all Frank Lloyd Wright building stewards, especially stewards of easement properties, through technical services and other resources. Currently the Conservancy accepts easements that do not involve tax deductions for an easement itself (though the monitoring fund contribution may be deductible to the extent allowed by law).  The primary reason for granting a preservation easement is the building owner’s desire to protect the historic nature of the building.

As you contemplate long-term protection of your property, we would be happy to discuss options with you, including preservation easements. For more information contact Preservation Programs Manager John Waters at 312.663.5500 or jwaters@savewright.org.

Easement Donor Experiences

Susan and John Major, Penwern

After Susan and John Major purchased the multi-building Penwern estate in 1994, they embarked on a meticulous restoration of the 6-acre property’s buildings and landscape on Lake Delavan in Southern Wisconsin. It is the Conservancy’s goal to work in partnership with building stewards. In this case, the Conservancy was able to assist the Majors with this restoration by writing to local officials in support of their work, and helping to obtain detailed digital images of the estate’s 16 remaining original drawings. Having this detailed information helped their renovation planning immeasurably.

In order to protect the painstaking restoration work, the Majors have generously donated preservation easements on the property to the Conservancy.

Susan and Jack Turben, Staley House

Susan and Jack Turben bought the Staley House, a Usonian gem on the shore of Lake Erie in North Madison, Ohio, in 1983. Lavishing care on the house, they bought back a portion of the property along the shore that had been sold and built on. Because of this, the house once again enjoys its original, spectacular view of the lake.

In 2011, the Turbens discussed the future of the house with the Conservancy’s then-executive director Janet Halstead. Halstead suggested a preservation easement to protect the house in perpetuity. The Turbens enthusiastically agreed. Thanks to the Turbens’ generosity, this property and its lakefront setting now will be preserved intact for generations to come.

Hoffman House

Photo by Patrick J. Mahoney

The most vulnerable time for a property is when it changes ownership. This led Tom and Alice Tisch, owners of the Hoffman House in Rye, New York, to investigate preservation easements as they prepared for the sale of their house in 2018. The Tisches had meticulously maintained the house since 1992, and they wanted to protect that investment.

While discussing easements with the Conservancy, they sought out a preservation-minded buyer, and proposed an easement as a part of the purchase contract. Purchasers Marc Jacobs and Charly Defrancesco were completely supportive and donated an easement after the purchase.

Thanks to the foresight of the Tisches and the enthusiastic agreement of Jacobs and Defrancesco, the Hoffman House is protected for decades.