What is an Historic Preservation Easement?
An historic preservation easement is a voluntary contractual agreement, between the owner of an historic property and Historic Santa Fe Foundation (HSFF), under which the owner retains possession of the property while HSFF assumes responsibility for ensuring it is preserved in perpetuity. Historic preservation easements are an effective and widely used mechanism for securing the permanent protection of historic buildings and archaeological sites. For a more thorough explanation, see the National Trust for Historic Preservation's preservation easement guidelines.

How Does an Historic Preservation Easement Work?
A preservation easement usually specifies that actions taken by current or future owners of an historic property affecting that property’s significant historic, architectural or open space features are neither damaging nor destructive to those features. The terms of the easement are mutually agreed upon by the property owner (the easement “grantor”) and HSFF (the “grantee”).

An historic preservation easement takes the form of a legal agreement that describes the preservation objectives of the easement, the rights and responsibilities of the property owner, the restrictions placed on the owner with regard to such things as alterations and demolition of the property, and the responsibilities of HSFF for protecting the property and enforcing the easement. Once an agreement on terms is reached, they are included in an easement deed, which is recorded so that the terms of the easement are legally binding upon all future owners of the property.

HSFF works to ensure flexibility of easements by working with property owners to tailor them to their specific property. Historic preservation easements range in scope from only protecting a particular feature, such as a certain ornament, to protecting whole facades or the entire building and outside space. To this end, a historic report is required of any property or site being considered for easement protection to determine what is historic and how best to preserve it.

While the property owner may give up certain development rights under the terms of the easement (the right to demolish the property or to subdivide it, for instance), they retains ownership and possession of the property and can sell it or transfer it by will to their heirs. HSFF, in turn, assumes responsibility for monitoring the easement and enforcing it, in perpetuity.

What are the Advantages of a Historic Preservation Easement?

  • The property remains in the ownership of the easement donor, who can live in it, sell it, or pass it on to heirs.

  • Preservation easements are flexible preservation tools that can be written to meet the needs of property owners while providing long-term protection for the property’s historic and architectural features.

  • A preservation easement is a permanent, remaining force even if the property changes hands.

What is the Role of HSFF as the Easement Holder?
Under New Mexico law, preservation easements can be donated to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations such as HSFF; HSFF has an established program for accepting easements. As the easement recipient, HSFF is responsible for developing (in cooperation with the property owner) the terms of the easement, for monitoring easement compliance through annual inspections of the property, and for enforcing the easement through legal action if necessary. HSFF, in effect, takes on the property “stewardship” role, while ownership of the property remains in private hands.

HSFF has established an “Easement Stewardship Fund” to cover the expenses of monitoring and enforcing easement. A contribution to the Stewardship Fund is requested of all easement donors.

Properties Currently Under HSFF Preservation Easement
HSFF currently holds preservation easements on the Bishop Everett Jones House, Charlotte White/Boris Gilbertson House (also known as the Donaciano Vigil House), Garcia House, Gustave Baumann House, Irene von Horvath House, J.S. Candelario's "Original Trading Post", Juan Jose Prada House, Sara Melton House, Shuster Mian House, and William Penhallow Henderson House.