The Cambridge Historical Commission (CHC) is both a department of the municipal government with paid professional staff and the name of an appointed commission with volunteer members and alternates who meet monthly to review applications for changes to protected historic properties. In addition to the appointed Cambridge Historical Commission, the CHC staff support three additional appointed neighborhood conservation district commissions. See full list of commissions, members, and assigned staff contacts below. See contact information for staff here (link).
The Cambridge Historical Commission is a citywide body that reviews alterations in the Fort Washington and Old Cambridge historic districts, Harvard Square Conservation District and to individual landmarks and easements. The commission also reviews applications for demolition of buildings more than 50 years old and preservation grants. General maintenance, repairs, and interior work can be approved by staff. Staff contact: Sarah Burks
The Avon Hill Neighborhood Conservation District Commission reviews binding applications for alterations within the Avon Hill NCD. Depending on the scope of work, non-binding reviews may be completed by Commission staff. General maintenance, repairs, and interior work can be approved by staff. Staff contact: Sarah Burks
The Half Crown-Marsh Neighborhood Conservation District Commission reviews applications for changes within the Half Crown-Marsh NCD. General maintenance, repairs, and interior work can be approved by staff. Staff contact: Samantha Paull
The Mid Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission reviews binding and non-binding (depending on the scope of work) applications for alterations within the Mid Cambridge NCD. General maintenance, repairs, and interior work can be approved by staff. Staff contact: Samantha Paull
WHO CAN SERVE ON THE HISTORICAL COMMISSION AND NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICT COMMISSIONS?
The Historical Commission is comprised of seven members and three alternates, all appointed by the City Manager. The Commission includes nominees from the Boston Society of Architects, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, and the Cambridge Historical Society. There must also be at least one lawyer and one resident of a historic district. The Commission is supported by a permanent, professional staff, and administers the city's two historic districts, the Harvard Square Conservation District, the city-wide landmark and demolition ordinances, and the nomination of eligible properties to the National Register of Historic Places.
The neighborhood conservation district (NCD) commissions each have five members and three alternates. According to the City Code, the NCD commission members must include three residents of the district, of whom at least two are homeowners; one neighborhood property owner (who may or may not be a homeowner), and one member or alternate of the Historical Commission. The three alternates must all be neighborhood property owners. The City Code also states, "Members and alternates of a NCD commission who are not members of the Historical Commission shall by reason of experience or education have demonstrable knowledge of and concern for improvement, conservation and enhancement of the district, and at least two of the members or alternates shall have professional qualifications related to real estate or architecture or historic preservation." The city council orders establishing individual districts may specify additional qualifications and requirements for members or alternates.
DOES THE HISTORICAL COMMISSION MAKE ITS DECISIONS AT PUBLIC HEARINGS?
Yes, both the Historical and NCD commissions generally meet once a month to discuss the applications brought before them. Notices of these meetings are published in the Cambridge Chronicle two weeks beforehand, and are posted outside the City Clerk's office. In addition, notices of the meetings are mailed to abutting property owners.
HOW CAN I CONTACT A MEMBER OF A COMMISSION?
Postal mail can be sent to the CHC office at 831 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 or an e-mail can be sent using our contact form here. (link) CHC staff will forward communications to commission members as appropriate.