Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation Receives Easements for Historic Harmony

Article excerpt

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has received its largest donation of preservation easements ever -- eight of the properties that make up Butler County's Historic Harmony.

"These are the most historic buildings we have ever had an easement on. They represent part of the area's original economic fabric," said Jack Miller, the foundation's director of gift planning. "This is an insurance policy on these properties."

Historic Harmony Inc., which oversees the Harmony Historic District, donated the easements to the foundation. The properties are associated with the first settlement established by the Harmony Society, a breakaway Lutheran sect whose members immigrated to the United States in 1804.

Similar to conservation easements, preservation easements typically give historic preservation organizations the right to enforce restrictions on demolition or alteration of a historic building's exterior or interior. Historic Harmony remains responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the sites. The foundation has final say on changes to the exterior of the sites.

The requirements apply to the Bishop Boyer house, which has always been a private residence. The home was built in 1816 by the town's first Mennonite bishop. Historic Harmony sold the building earlier this month to Nancy Wilson of Leetsdale.

"I consider myself a steward of this house for the time being. It's just a wonderful old home that I have admired for 20 years or so," said Wilson, who is moving into the house.

John Ruch, president of Historic Harmony, said the agreement with the foundation confirms that the Harmony properties will be preserved.

"(The foundation) will manage the easements. They are responsible for enforcing the easements. There is a cost to that, and the History & Landmarks Foundation has the wherewithal and staff to manage that, which we do not," Ruch said.

The transfer of easements was first considered in 2003, after a Zelienople resident willed the Bishop Boyer house to Historic Harmony, which asked the foundation how it could protect the house without owning it. …