Historic Districts and Neighborhood Conservation Districts in Cambridge, MA
In addition to the districts named below, individual properties can be protected by preservation easement or landmark designation. Please review the Designated Property List for a street listing of properties protected by district, landmark, easement, or other designation status.
Online CHC brochures: "Cambridge
Historic Districts" and "Neighborhood
MAP of Historic Districts and Neighborhood Conservation Districts and Window Guidelines and HVAC Guidelines
View the individual homepage for any of the following districts or district studies (scroll down to see full list):
(general district info below)
Read the local ordinances and state laws under which the Historical Commission and the neighborhood conservation district commissions operate.
Download application forms online.
View the permit procedures brochure.
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AVON HILL NCD BOUNDARY STUDY?
On August 4, 2005, the
Cambridge Historical Commission voted to accept a petition and initiate a study
of the boundaries and amendments to the Avon Hill Neighborhood Conservation
District, per the procedures of Ch. 2.78, Article III of the city code.
Seven study committee members
have been appointed by the City Manager. Please click here
for a list of meeting dates and discussion topics.
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LOWER COMMON NCD STUDY?
On October 8, 2004, the
Cambridge Historical Commission voted to accept a petition and initiate a neighborhood
conservation district study, per the procedures of Ch. 2.78, Article III of
the city code, for the Lower Common neighborhood.
The study was suspended
by vote of the Historical Commission on June 28, 2007.
WHAT ARE HISTORIC DISTRICTS AND NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICTS?
Historic districts are areas in which historic buildings and their settings are protected by public review. Historic district ordinances are local laws that are adopted by communities using powers granted by the state. Historic districts comprise the city's significant historic and architectural resources. Inclusion in a historic district signifies that a property contributes to an ensemble that is worth protecting by virtue of its historic importance or architectural quality. Historic districts deserve special protection because they enhance our shared quality of life.
Neighborhood Conservation Districts:
These districts are groups of buildings that are architecturally and historically distinctive. There are four NCDs in Cambridge: Mid Cambridge, Half Crown-Marsh, Avon Hill, and Harvard Square. A different commission administers each of the four NCDs. These NCD commissions are empowered to approve new construction, demolition, and alterations that are visible from a public way. The establishment of an NCD recognizes the particular design and architectural qualities of special neighborhoods in Cambridge and encourages their protection and maintenance for the benefit of the entire city.
These designations were created to preserve
buildings that are architecturally and historically significant. The establishment
of such districts and landmarks recognizes the particular historic and architectural
qualities of neighborhoods and buildings in Cambridge and encourages their protection
and maintenance for the benefit of the entire City.
The regulations in the neighborhood conservation
districts are tailored to the needs of the particular neighborhood and are generally
less strict than those in historic districts.
I'M THINKING ABOUT
REPLACING MY WINDOWS. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ME?
We have a brochure all about windows, their repair, and considerations you should think about before choosing a replacement. Click here for more information.
No, you only need to bring your building permit application to the Historical Commission Office if your property is subject to Historical Commission review. When you apply for your building permit, the staff of the Inspectional Services Department will tell you whether you need to see the Historical Commission. If your property is not on the list of properties under the jurisdiction of the Historical Commission, you will not have to bring the permit application to the Historical Commission Office. Some alterations (such as fences) in historic districts are subject to Commission review even if no building permit is required for the work.
**All demolition permit applications
must be reviewed by Historical Commission staff and may require review by the
Historical Commission at a public hearing if the structure is over 50 years
old. Follow this link for more information on the Demolition
DOES BEING IN A HISTORIC DISTRICT MEAN THAT I CAN NEVER CHANGE THE APPEARANCE OF MY PROPERTY?
No. Properties in historic districts
are not frozen in time. Historic district protection is designed to ensure that
when changes occur, they do not destroy the unique qualities of the district.
Cambridge has two historic districts. An online map of the historic districts and neighborhood conservation districts is now available.
No. Properties in neighborhood conservation
districts are not frozen in time. Neighborhood conservation district protection
is designed to ensure that a neighborhood's distinctive qualities are taken
into account when changes occur. Most routine and minor changes are reviewed
on-the- spot by the Historical Commission staff. Many other changes are reviewed
by the neighborhood conservation district commission in an advisory, non-binding
capacity. Binding review in a public hearing is generally reserved for major
changes, such as demolition, new construction, and major exterior alteration,
that would affect neighborhood character.
Neighborhood Conservation Districts are comprised of groups of buildings that are architecturally and historically distinctive. There are four NCDs in Cambridge: Mid Cambridge, Half Crown-Marsh, Avon Hill, and Harvard Square. An online map of the historic districts and neighborhood conservation districts is now available.