National Register of Historic Places
Find out more about the National Register program by visiting the National Park Service's website or by visiting the Massachusetts Historical Commission's website.
WHAT IS THE NATIONAL REGISTER?
The National Register of Historic Places is a list of individual buildings, sites, structures, and objects, as well as districts, that are important in American history, culture, architecture, or archaeology. This federal designation is administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) as the State Historic Preservation Office. Cambridge contains approximately 2,500 National Register-listed properties. Listing on the National Register recognizes the importance of the site to the community, state, or nation, and allows property owners to take advantage of tax incentives for renovation or donation of preservation easements. The National Register is used as a planning tool by federal, state, and local agencies. Listing provides state historic preservation officers an opportunity to make official comments on projects that are funded or permitted by the state or federal governments.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF A CAMBRIDGE BUILDING IS LISTED ON THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES?
To find out if a Cambridge property is listed on the National Register, contact the Cambridge Historical Commission. We have recently printed a map of National Register Properties in Cambridge, but check with us for any recent additions or corrections. Be prepared to tell us the address of the property and, if possible, any names it is known by (such as "the Cooper-Frost-Austin House"). The Massachusetts Historical Commission prints a list each year of all Massachusetts properties that are listed on the State or National Registers of Historic Places. Contact the MHC at (617)727-8470 if you want to order a copy of this State Register of Historic Places publication.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF SUCH A DESIGNATION?
All projects that use federal and state funds, permits, and/or licenses must be reviewed for possible impact on historic resources, including buildings and archaeological sites. For the purposes of this review, buildings which are already listed on the National Register and buildings that are considered eligible for listing are valued equally.
National Register listing in no way limits the owner's use of the property unless public funding or federal or state licenses or permits are required. If you are the owner of a National Register property you may make any changes that you want to, provided you use only private funds and do not require federal or state licenses or permits.
The Historical Commission's review of the City's designated landmarks, local historic districts, and neighborhood conservation districts are not connected to the National Register program. However, in some neighborhood conservation districts, National Register status can make the difference between a binding and a non-binding determination of the NCD commission. Also, projects affecting contributing buildings in the Harvard Square or Central Square National Register Districts may trigger different special permit requirements in the Harvard Square or Central Square Overlay Districts (special zoning areas).