Historic preservation, as practiced by municipalities, is an activity that promotes the public welfare by preserving the distinctive characteristics of places and buildings that are significant for their history or architecture.
Preservation tools available in Cambridge include the National Register of Historic Places, a Federal listing that is administered by the Massachusetts Historical Commission; historic districts and preservation easements enabled by the Massachusetts General Laws; and local ordinances allowing review of demolition and designation of landmarks and neighborhood conservation districts.
FOLLOW THESE LINKS TO FIND THE TEXT OF THE PERTINENT LOCAL AND STATE LEGISLATION:
To find the full text of the local ordinance, you can link directly to the Cambridge City Code, then go to "Title 2: Administration and Personnel", then to "Chapter 2.78: Historical Buildings and Landmarks."
To find the text of the Historic Districts Act, the state enabling legislation, link to Chapter 40C of the General Laws of Massachusetts This will take you to the Table of Contents for Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws.
See also these CHC policies and contact the CHC staff for further guidance and information about other CHC policies and procedures:
The Historical Commission is comprised of seven members and three alternates, all appointed by the City Manager. The Commission includes nominees from the Boston Society of Architects, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, and the Cambridge Historical Society. There must also be at least one lawyer and one resident of a historic district. The Commission is supported by a permanent, professional staff, and administers the city's two historic districts, the Harvard Square Conservation District, the city-wide landmark and demolition ordinances, and the nomination of eligible properties to the National Register of Historic Places.
The neighborhood conservation district (NCD) commissions each have five members and three alternates. According to the City Code, the NCD commission members must include three residents of the district, of whom at least two are homeowners; one neighborhood property owner (who may or may not be a homeowner), and one member or alternate of the Historical Commission. The three alternates must all be neighborhood property owners. The City Code also states, "Members and alternates of a NCD commission who are not members of the Historical Commission shall by reason of experience or education have demonstrable knowledge of and concern for improvement, conservation and enhancement of the district, and at least two of the members or alternates shall have professional qualifications related to real estate or architecture or historic preservation." The city council orders establishing individual districts may specify additional qualifications and requirements for members or alternates.
Yes, both the Historical and NCD commissions generally meet once a month to discuss the applications brought to them. Notices of these meetings are published in the Cambridge Chronicle two weeks beforehand, and are posted outside the City Clerk's office. In addition, notices of the meetings are mailed to abutting property owners.