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Designating landmarks in Boston

Last updated: 5/21/18

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 whether a resource can be designated:

  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 (State or National).
  • 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 complete petition, submitted by 10 registered Boston voters. Contact the Executive Director at BLC@boston.gov prior to starting a Landmark petition. The Mayor or a Boston Landmarks Commissioner can also submit a petition. If the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) votes to accept a petition, the resource - now "pending designation"- is added to the BLC's pending Landmarks list. The next step is to prepare a Study Report. After a Study Report is completed, the Commission votes on designation. If approved by the Commission, 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 respective Commission through the design review process. Thoughtful changes that follow guidelines can 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