City of Cambridge

Historical Commission

The Cambridge Historical Commission (CHC) is the city's historic preservation agency and seeks to preserve the integrity and diversity of Cambridge's built environment and to disseminate information about its history. The CHC protects designated properties throughout the city and preserves the integrity of Cambridge's many significant buildings. The CHC advises private and commercial owners, institutions, and public agencies on historic preservation issues, and participates in reviews of state and federal projects that impact historic resources.

The CHC maintains a public archive on the city's history. The collection focuses on the city's architectural and social history and contains information on all 13,000+ Cambridge buildings. It also includes thousands of historic photographs and maps as well as information on many individuals and organizations.

Tips and FAQs

Viewing Meeting Notices

Meeting notices are published in two editions of the newspaper preceding the meeting date and list only the public hearing cases. Meeting notices are not the same as meeting agendas, which are more detailed and are published closer to the date of the meeting.

Districts & Historic Properties

Cambridge has two Historic Districts and four Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCDs). Learn more on the district homepages at left.

Individual properties can be protected by Preservation Easement or Landmark designation.

All demolition permit applications must be reviewed by staff and may require a hearing with the Historical Commission if the structure is more than 50 years old. Learn more about the Demolition Delay Ordinance.

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is a federal and state planning tool, with limited local regulations.

Learn more about Cambridge's Districts and Historic Properties.

Download an Application to Make Changes to a Designated Historic Property

You can view and download for any of our districts Application for Certificate. If you are not sure if you need to apply, you can call the Commission office (617/349-4683) to speak with a staff member.

Laws, Policies, and Guidelines

Historic preservation, as practiced by municipalities, is an activity that promotes the public welfare by preserving the distinctive characteristics of places and buildings that are significant for their history or architecture. 

Preservation tools available in Cambridge include the National Register of Historic Places, a Federal listing that is administered by the Massachusetts Historical Commission; historic districts and preservation easements enabled by the Massachusetts General Laws; and local ordinances allowing for the review of demolition and the designation of landmarks and neighborhood conservation districts.

View pertinent local and state legislation.

Books on Cambridge History

Several publication on local history and neighborhood development are available for research or purchase. No purchase is necessary to view the books; office copies of all the books are available for reference at the commission library. Many of these books are also available at the Cambridge Public Library.

Preservation Grants

The Cambridge Historical Commission is a municipal agency concerned with the history of Cambridge and the preservation of significant older structures in the city. To aid in the preservation and rehabilitation of these older buildings, the Commission administers various federal, state, and local programs. One of these is the local Preservation Grants program.

Grants are available in two categories:

Last Updated: 3/4/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

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