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About the Historical Commission


The Cambridge Historical Commission, a department of the City of Cambridge, was established in 1963 to administer the city’s historic districts, to survey Cambridge’s architecture and publish its findings, and to research and mark historic sites. Since then, its mission has expanded. Commission staff now administer two historic and four neighborhood conservation districts, as well as thirty local landmarks, and thirty-nine properties covered by preservation easements.  The Commission also reviews demolition permit applications for all structures over fifty years old. The Commission maintains a public archive of the city’s architectural and social history; staff members present informational and educational programs to local schools, organizations, and community groups.  Preservation grants and institutional preservation grants are offered to low- and moderate-income home-owners and to non-profit institutions; technical assistance on preservation issues is provided; historic paint color consultations are available; and an active  publication program  is maintained. The Commission is responsible for the restoration of some historic public areas, such as Longfellow Park and the Revolutionary-era Fort Washington.  Historic and neighborhood conservation district commissions meet monthly. At the commission hearings, the commissions review applications to alter designated historic properties and conduct other business as required.

The ordinances under which the Historical Commission and the neighborhood conservation district commissions operate were adopted to protect and preserve Cambridge's significant buildings and neighborhoods. A significant building is one which, according to Chapter 2.78 of the City Code, "constitute(s) or reflect(s) distinctive features of the architectural, cultural, political, economic or social history of the City." The enforcement of these ordinances promotes the public welfare by "preserving the resources of the City and making the City a more attractive and desirable place in which to live."

For more general information about the Commission, try our Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) and Ordinances and Enabling Legislation pages.

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