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Designating landmarks in Boston

Last updated: 7/12/16

Designating landmarks in Boston

Learn about the process for designating individual Landmarks and local historic districts.

The Boston Landmarks Commission may designate various resources (structures, sites, or objects, man-made or natural) as local Landmarks.
There are four criteria used to evaluate the significance of a resource:

  1. A property listed on the National Register of Historic Places as provided in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966;
  2. A resource at which events occurred that have made an outstanding contribution to, and are identified prominently with, or which best represent some important aspect of cultural, political, economic, military, or social history;
  3. A resource associated significantly with the lives of outstanding historic personages;
  4. A resource representative of elements of architectural or landscape design or craftsmanship with embody distinctive characteristics of a type inherently valuable for study of a period, style or method of construction or development, or a notable work of an influential architect, landscape architect, designer, or builder.

Based on the resource’s level of significance, the Commission may designate it as an:

  • Individual Landmark: an individual property, improvement or physical feature with significance above the local level.
  • Landmark District: an area with significance above the local level (State or National).
  • Architectural Conservation District: an area with significance at the local level.
  • Protection Area: an area adjacent to and contributing to the physical environment of an Individual Landmark, Landmark District, or Architectural Conservation District.

The designation process is formal and public. In general, the process begins with a petition submitted by 10 registered Boston voters. Please contact the Executive Director at prior to beginning a Landmark petition. A Boston Landmarks Commissioner or the Mayor can also submit a petition. If the BLC votes to accept the petition, the resource is added to the pending Landmarks list. The next step is to prepare a Study Report.  After a Study Report is completed, the commission votes on designation.

Landmark designation protects a resource from changes that might compromise its integrity. Exterior, and in some cases interior, changes to pending and designated Individual Landmarks and to properties within Local Historic Districts must be reviewed and approved by the respective commission through the design review process. Thoughtful changes that follow guidelines will be approved more quickly. Occupancy and use are not subject to review.

Please note there are substantial differences between local Landmark designation and listing on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Still have questions? Contact:
Landmarks Commission
1 City Hall Square
Room 709
Boston, MA 02201
United States