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“Scarcely a Vestige of Antiquity Remains”: Evaluating the Role of Preservation Easements in Protecting Historic Religious Architecture

September 2014

Citation: ELR 10808

Author: Jess R. Phelps

Preservation of historic religious architecture has been one of the most controversial areas of regulatory preservation activity. Although regulatory options remain constitutionally permissible, efforts to protect historic religious properties have been limited by legislation and lack of political will. One alternative source of preservation intervention, however, has largely escaped notice—a quiet expansion in the use of preservation easements to protect significant historic religious architecture. This Article evaluates this expansion, providing the first meaningful analysis of how preservation easements protecting historic religious structures have attempted to balance preservation and religious freedom concerns, and assessing the relative success of these efforts to date.

This Article was written by Jess R. Phelps while employed as Team Leader for Preservation Services at Historic New England. The author now works at the USDA’s Office of General Counsel, Natural Resources and Environment Division.

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