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Preservation Covenants

Preservation covenants are formal agreements that require the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) to approve physical changes to a property to ensure that its historic character is retained during construction projects.  

PHMC holds over 350 active preservation covenants or agreements on historic properties throughout the commonwealth.  Most of these agreements are executed as part of the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant program, although some agreements are assigned as part of National Park Service grant programs or consultation through the Environmental Review process. 

The term and other requirements contained within each agreement vary depending on why the covenant was placed on the property but often require public accessibility, maintenance, and compliance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties by the property owner.  PHMC covenant agreements are recorded at the subject property's County Recorder of Deeds Office as the stipulations transfer to subsequent property owners upon conveyance of the real estate.

PHMC is unable to accept preservation covenants or façade easement donations from private property owners for tax purposes.  Property owners interested in protecting their historic property should contact private, non-profit preservation organizations with established preservation easement programs.

For questions concerning PHMC preservation covenants, please contact Karen Arnold, Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Manager, kaarnold@pa.gov  or (717) 783-9927.

Preliminary Project Review

Click here for guidance on using PA-SHARE to submit information on proposed changes at a property under a PHMC covenant.

PHMC Grants Staff advise and assist property owners under preservation covenants in determining if their projects will impact the character of the property and ensure compliance under the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

PA SHPO encourages property owners to include Staff in preliminary project planning discussions before designs are finalized.  Early coordination ensures time to successfully complete reviews well in advance of construction and may help facilitate permit or funding approvals if project will also require collaborative reviews with other PA SHPO programs.

Property owners should submit a project description specifying project need, architectural plans and photographs of areas impacted by the proposed project as a supplemental submission in PA-SHARE. A Preliminary Project Review is completed to insure the long-term preservation of the resource and compliance with the Standards. Project redesign may be required if the project includes:

    • Physical destruction of an archaeological site
    • Inappropriate alterations
    • Change to the property's setting or location
    • Introduction of visual or audible intrusions
    • Neglect of a resource that leads to its deterioration.

Historic Property Inspection Program

In 2022, PA SHPO launched the Historic Property Inspection Program (HPIP) to improve communication with stewards of properties under a PHMC covenant.   HPIP allows PA SHPO staff to coordinate proactive site visits at a covenant property with its owner to discuss current preservation needs and evaluate the condition of the extant buildings and grounds.  The program goals are to:

  • Proactively and systemically monitor covenants during the life of their agreement term
  • Provide an architectural inspection assessment
  • Recommend improvements National Register documentation, if needed
  • Increase access to PA-SHPO staff and other resources that might address needs of the property owner in the long-term stewardship of significant properties
  • Encourage past Keystone recipients to continue relationship with the grant program for other capital and planning needs.

If there is a covenant property in your community that might benefit from a PHMC site visit, please contact Karen Arnold, Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Manager, kaarnold@pa.gov or (717) 783-9927.

Rehabilitation Standards

Property owners with a PHMC covenant do have the responsibility to maintain properties under their stewardship and ensure the appropriate treatment of any work at the subject historic property.  PA SHPO staff are happy to meet with property owners to assist in management plans for resources under their ownership. 

Useful resources and guidance on appropriate maintenance, care, and treatment of historic properties include: