Protecting Fredericksburg’s Historic Landmarks

Ensuring the future of the City’s treasured historic properties through support, accountability, and oversight.


Owning an historic home or property can be a richly rewarding experience.  It can also involve a substantial investment of time and resources.  Many historic property owners are concerned about the future of their homes and want to know that investment will be protected beyond their tenure. Donating a preservation easement is one of the most direct and effective ways of ensuring that historic properties enjoy long-term legal protection while remaining in private ownership.  Easement donors can also realize significant federal, state, and local tax benefits.

About HFFI’s Easement Program

The Foundation’s Preservation Easement Program evolved as part of the organization’s revolving fund initiative, which it used to great effect to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell at-risk historic properties during the 1960s and 1970s. Upon resale, as a matter of policy, HFFI retained a perpetual covenant on each of the buildings to ensure the long-term protection of their exterior and, in some cases, interior architectural features and historic fabric. The Foundation continued this practice following the revolving fund’s dissolution in the late 1970s and today, holds easements on more than 40 individual historic properties throughout the Fredericksburg area.

What is an easement?

    As defined by the National Park Service, “An historic preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement made between a property owner (donor) and a qualified easement holding organization (donee) to protect a significant historic property, landscape, or archeological site by restricting future changes to and/or development on the site.”

Essentially, an easement is a partial ownership interest in a historic property that helps ensure its long-term preservation and sympathetic treatment while keeping it in private hands on the tax rolls.  Conservation or preservation easements protect historic buildings and associated land areas from demolition or inappropriate alterations that would damage their historic and architectural integrity.  Owners retain title and may sell, will, or live on the property. Alterations are permitted, but they must comply with preservation standards and be reviewed and approved by the easement holding organization prior to commencement of the work as prescribed under the easement agreement.

Why Donate a Preservation Easement?

Protection of a historically significant property in perpetuity

For historic property owners seeking additional protection for their investment above and beyond that which is prescribed by the City’s local Historic District zoning ordinance and Architectural Review Board (ARB) review process, a preservation easement is an option worth exploring. These legally binding covenants protect against threats such as demolition and inappropriate alterations, and, with technical assistance from Foundation staff, help ensure the ongoing maintenance and long-term preservation.

Income, gift and estate tax advantages for donors

HFFI’s status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization allows donors to treat their contributions as a charitable contribution under Internal Revenue Tax Code Section 170(h).  For eligible owners, this can translate to significant tax benefits, because the value of an easement donation is deductible from federal income taxes in the same manner as other non-cash charitable contributions.

Technical Support

Owners who donate an easement on their historic property also receive technical support from HFFI’s staff and Real Estate Committee.  It is HFFI’s responsibility, as a preservation easement holder, to make certain each property is being maintained in compliance with its covenant agreement.  We conduct annual inspections to monitor each property’s condition over time and make recommendations to property owners for maintenance work that will prevent small problems from becoming large problems.

How does it work?

Essentially, through the easement program, a private property owner has an opportunity to guarantee the perpetual protection of an important historic resource without losing ownership, use, or enjoyment of the property. Even though the landmark remains on the tax rolls and in private hands, its longevity and sympathetic treatment are secured for future generations.

HFFI’s Real Estate Committee is responsible for administering the easement program with support from the Foundation’s Executive Director and trained volunteers.  The Committee’s members meet monthly to consider donor applications, review and evaluate owners’ requests for new work, and monitor any ongoing rehabilitation and repair activities.  The group also oversees the annual inspection of HFFI’s easement properties and provides technical and, in certain instances, financial support to assist owners in their efforts to properly care for and maintain their historic homes and businesses.

For more information about HFFI’s Preservation Easement Program, or to inquire about donating an easement, contact the Foundation’s at 540-371-4504 or [email protected].

Donate to HFFI’s Stewardship Fund

HFFI established its Stewardship Fund in 2011 as a means of supporting its ongoing efforts to preserve and protect the Fredericksburg region’s historic built environment, including, in particular, the Foundation’s 40-plus easement properties.  To help us fund the ongoing costs of monitoring, inspecting, enforcing, and administering our easements, owners are encouraged to make a one-time, monetary contribution to the Stewardship Fund upon final approval and formal settlement of their easement donation.  Donations typically range between 2% and 10% of the easement property’s appraised value.

Remember, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation is a certified 501(c)(3) organization, which means your donation is tax deductible.