Informational Alert | Coronavirus Updates
NOTICE: The Historical Commission will be open to members of the public, by appointment only, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for permitting and other regulatory questions, limited research assistance, and other general assistance. Appointments can be made online, by phone at 617-349-4683 or by email at histcomm@cambridgema.gov. Please provide the property address related to your appointment request or the nature of your regulatory question so that we can make arrangements with the appropriate staff person. Research questions that would require an appointment time longer than 30 minutes will continue to be handled by phone and email.

Historical Commission

Photo of the front steps of City Hall

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.

COVID-19 Alert:
At this time the City of Cambridge (“City”) will not be holding any non-essential public meetings due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the City Manager’s closure of all City buildings to non-essential business. On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (“Act”), which extends all permitting deadlines for permits issued by City multi-member boards and commissions until after the State of Emergency is lifted. In light of the extensions provided for in the Act and the closure of City buildings, at this time the City’s boards and commissions will be rescheduling all public hearings in accordance with the extensions permitted under the Act. Applicants will receive notice of the new date once the hearing is rescheduled, and notice will be sent to any necessary parties, advertised and posted, as required by applicable laws.

Additionally, while the State of Emergency is in effect, applications for permits issued by City multi-member boards and commissions may be filed by e-mail to the City Clerk at cityclerk@cambridgema.gov. All application fees should be submitted to the applicable board or commission by mail. (Note that the Cambridge Historical Commission and Neighborhood Conservation District Commissions do not have application fees).

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this unprecedented time.

Tips and FAQs

Frequently Asked Cambridge History Questions.

When was Cambridge founded? What is the oldest house in Cambridge? Did George Washington take command of the army under the Washington Elm tree? 

Find out the answers to these questions and more on our FAQ page.

Learn more about historic properties

Cambridge has two Historic Districts and four Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCDs).

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.


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

View Project Plans and Staff Reports

View application materials for upcoming or past cases of the Historical Commission on our website. 

Still can't find what you're looking for?  Contact the CHC staff at 617-349-4683 or via our e-mail contact form.

How do I schedule a research appointment?

The Historical Commission's library and archive are open to the public for research on Mondays from 2:00 - 7:00 PM, Tuesdays from 2:00 - 4:00 PM, Wednesday - Thursday from 9:30 - 11:30 AM and 2:00 - 4:00 PM. The office is not open for research on Fridays. 

We strongly recommend that you call ahead to set up an appointment, as our research space and staff are limited. Please call (617)349-4683 or TTY (617)349-6112 to schedule a research appointment.

Get started now with our online research aids.

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How can we help?

Please provide as much detail below as possible so City staff can respond to your inquiry:

As a governmental entity, the Massachusetts Public Records Law applies to records made or received by the City. Any information received through use of this site is subject to the same provisions as information provided on paper.

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