Preservation Easements

Most everyone has seen a favorite old building torn down and wondered why it couldn’t be saved.

Historic Preservation Easements are the strongest tool for historic preservation.

A preservation easement is a simple legal agreement between a property owner and the Historic Wilmington Foundation that preserves a historic resource. The legal agreement lists covenants, or legally-binding rules, that preserve the historic and architectural integrity of a qualifying property. The historic preservation easement is recorded at the appropriate county Register of Deeds Office. 

Most preservation easements run with the property in perpetuity. Standard covenants include written permission from the Historic Wilmington Foundation to alter the exterior of the historic resource, subdivide the property into multiple parcels, and the Historic Wilmington Foundation retaining a right of first refusal on the property in the event of a sale. Property owners may negotiate covenants that protect interior architectural features of a historic resource, such as mantels, crown molding, or flooring. In addition, the property owner grants the Historic Wilmington Foundation the right to enforce the covenants of the easement and monitor the property. 

Click here to see an example preservation easement. 

Property owners may be eligible to deduct the value of the easement as a charitable contribution on their federal income taxes. The easement must cause a reduction in the tax-assessed value of the property compared to the property’s unrestricted value at its highest and best use. 

With just one document, your house can be safeguarded forever. For more information on how a preservation easement can help your property exist for future generations, email Travis Gilbert at

The Wright-Murphy House (212 S. 2nd Street)

This “Wilmington Plain” house c. 1830 is the first home HWF bought using its revolving fund, way back in 1967. (Check out the “before” photo, below!) The historic home remains protected to this day with a preservation covenants in place!