View a list of and details about Cambridge landmarks here.
Current CHC Meeting Notice
WHAT IS A DESIGNATED LANDMARK?
A landmark is a place, structure, feature, or object that has been designated by the City Council as historically or architecturally significant by itself or because it is associated with events, persons, or trends significant in the history of the City. Designation as a Cambridge Landmark is an honor that recognizes the importance of its design or its unique place in the City's history. Landmark designation recognizes only a select number of individual properties that are important to the City as a whole, protecting them so that their unique qualities are maintained for the benefit of all of the residents of Cambridge. Protected landmarks include City Hall and many prominent buildings on Massachusetts Avenue. Individual properties may also be protected by the donation of preservation easements to the City by a property owner.
DOES LANDMARKING MEAN I CAN NEVER CHANGE THE APPEARANCE OF MY PROPERTY?
No. Landmark designation means that changes must be publicly reviewed to ensure that the landmark's special qualities are not lost through inappropriate alterations. If you are considering making alterations to a designated landmark, please e-mail Sarah Burks or call 617-349-4687 to discuss the project and get application information.
The Commission works closely with owners both before and after designation to develop design solutions that respect the landmark's significance while acknowledging its ongoing use. Many alterations, such as additional construction on a landmark site, can be incorporated into the designation order itself, thereby assuring owners of their ability to move forward with planned changes.
HOW DOES A PROPERTY BECOME A DESIGNATED LANDMARK?
The process of designating a Cambridge Landmark may begin by petition of at least ten registered voters to the Historical Commission requesting that the Commission initiate a landmark designation study process. Alternatively, the Historical Commission may initiate the landmark study process on its own. The Commission staff then prepares a report on the proposed landmark, detailing its significance, developing boundaries and standards for the property, and, if justified, recommending a landmark designation order.
The report is transmitted to the Commission for its review at a public hearing. If the Commission so votes, the study report is transmitted to the City Council with a recommendation to designate. Designations are made by a majority vote of the City Council, which may request an additional hearing for discussion by the Ordinance Committee.
WHAT DOES LANDMARK DESIGNATION MEAN IN PRACTICAL TERMS?
The Historical Commission is empowered to regulate changes that affect the publicly visible features of designated landmarks. Such features are those that are open to view from a public way. This includes but is not limited to building materials, temporary signs and structures, walls, fences, driveways, storm doors and windows, gutters, and window air conditioners. Paint color is not a feature that is regulated in neighborhood conservation districts.
The Historical Commission has specific design standards for each landmark, which are included in the individual designation reports.
A Certificate of Non-Applicability will be issued for work done in kind (work which matches existing conditions exactly), interior alterations, and alterations not visible from any public way; in short, any work which does not require Commission review. These certificates are generally issued by the Historical Commission staff on-the-spot. A Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued for alterations which the Commission deems not incongruous to the character of the property in question. Occasionally, a Certificate of Hardship will be issued for work which is not otherwise appropriate if the Commission determines that failure to approve an application would entail a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, and that the work would not be a significant detriment to the landmark. One of these certificates is always necessary to obtain a building permit for work on a Cambridge Landmark.