Designating landmarks in Boston
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:
- A property listed on the National Register of Historic Places as provided in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
- 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.
- A resource associated significantly with the lives of outstanding historic personages.
- A resource representative of elements of architectural or landscape design or craftsmanship that 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:
- An Individual Landmark: an individual property, improvement or physical feature with significance above the local level.
- A Landmark District: an area with significance above the local level (State or National).
- An Architectural Conservation District: an area with significance at the local level.
- A 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. It is required to meet with the Executive Director before starting a Landmark petition. Please contact her via email at BLC@boston.gov or phone 617-635-3850 to set up a meeting. Petitioners take an active role in the petition process, please find out as much as you can about the history of the resource you'd like to landmark. For guidance, please review our research and technical assistance page. In general, the process to Landmark a significant historic resource begins with a complete petition signed by 10 registered Boston voters. 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. The Mayor and City Council also vote on designation.
Landmark designation protects a resource from physical 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 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.