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Landmarks Commission common questions

We have answers to some common questions below around different topics.

If you have any follow-up questions, please contact us at or 617-635-1935.



Archaeology is the scientific study of the past using objects that have been left behind.

People have been living in Boston for more than 12,000 years. There are hundreds of known Native and historic archaeological sites within City limits. The sites all contain unique information about Boston’s past.

The City Archaeologist works to preserve, protect, and promote Boston’s archaeological heritage by working with:

  • City agencies
  • developers
  • historic partners, and
  • the members of the public.

Sign up for the newsletter on Archaeology's website! Find out about new discoveries and hear about the latest volunteer opportunities. 

You can sign up for our newsletter, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @bostonarchaeo.

Any and all questions and requests about archaeology in Boston can be sent to

Boston Landmarks Commission

Boston Landmarks Commission

The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) is Boston’s historic preservation office. Part of the Office of Historic Preservation, BLC and the local historic district commissions perform a wide range of preservation functions.

Changes to any landmarked properties — including those in historic districts — are reviewed and approved by commissions with volunteer commissioners. Every district commission is supported by a Boston Landmarks Commission staff person.

You can visit our website and follow us on any of our social media accounts!

Design review

Design review

Yes! As of October 1, 2021, we are only accepting online applications for work in a historic district or individually landmarked buildings. You can complete an application and pay online.

If you prefer to mail in or drop off a check for your application fee, use the following address:




BOSTON, MA 02108

We contact applicants about the status of their application before the application completion date. We post agendas with the City Clerk on the public notices section of 10 calendar days before the hearing date. We also notify applicants and abutters at this time. To track your application status, log into the applicant portal.

There are different fees and categories depending on your situation. You can see the list of fees in the design review application instructions.

Please search our publicly available map. Anyone can use the map to determine if a building is within a historic district boundary or individually landmarked.

If your application is listed as a “Design Review” item, then a representative must appear before the Landmarks Commission. If your application is listed as an “Administrative Review” item, then you do not have to appear. But, you do still need to await a decision from the commission before starting the work.

We accept applications on a rolling basis. To be added to a public hearing agenda, our staff must determine that an application is complete. That means that all required documents listed on the second page of the application are included in the submission. You also need to submit an application 15 business days before the hearing date.

Possibly. An emergency repair application can be approved at a Preservation Planner’s discretion. An emergency repair is work that is consistent with our guidelines and that is:

  • necessary to prevent property damage, or
  • required to protect the safety of the building's occupants or the public.

You’ll need to provide proof that the repair is an emergency. Complete an application online. Remember to include photographs that show the situation is an emergency. 

A planner will review the application and determine if it requires an expedited approval.

The property that you are proposing changes to is flagged as a designated property. To receive historic approval, complete an application online and bring it in or mail it to:

Office of Historic Preservation: Boston Landmarks Commission

20 City Hall Avenue Floor 3

Boston, MA 02108

In the future, you can use our publicly available map to determine if a property is a landmark, or falls within a historic district.

You may call us at 617-635-1935 to report it, or email at We also have individual pages on for our historic districts with specific contact information. On these pages, you can find the email for the district on the right of the page under “Contact”. You can also submit a BOS:311 request to report a violation.

Keep an eye out for the historic district approval placard. If the work is approved by a City historic commission, it should be displayed near the building permit visible to the public. 

Yes! In fact it is required. We have tips and tricks on taking quality, supporting photographs for applications. Photographs of existing conditions are a required. You may upload them directly online when you complete your online application. We recommend all photographs are less than 10MB (per file). For larger photographs, links to file sharing services are also permitted. 

Sometimes. Neighborhood examples should only be used as supplementary evidence for approval. We review each application on a case-by-case basis. We always take the context of the project into consideration. Also, some changes to historic buildings pre-date the designation date.

No. Each set of design guidelines are tailored to protect and enhance the architecture and historical narrative of specific districts or landmarks.

A project on your property was one or both of the following:

  • Completed without the consent of the Landmarks Commission.
  • Completed outside of the scope or not consistent with the approval issued by the Commission.

To resolve this issue, please contact the staff person who issued the letter. You will be asked to arrange a date to appear before the Landmarks Commission to resolve the issue.

Thanks for your interest! Check out each of Landmarks Commission information section for more details. Each historic district also has a set of commissioners.

Commissioners do not get paid to serve on commissions. We are grateful for our volunteer commissioners!

We do not recommend contractors. The best way to find a contractor with a proven record of success is to look at well-done projects in the neighborhood and ask around for references.

No. If the property is landmarked or located in a historic district, you still need to submit an application to the Boston Landmarks Commission. You will not be able to complete your permit application through the Inspectional Services Building Division until you meet all Landmarks Commission requirements.

The Zoning Board and other City agencies have separate processes and requirements. You must satisfy all these requirements before applying for Landmarks Commission approval.

All properties in the City of Boston that are within a local historic district or individually landmarked buildings must display their approvals on site, visible to the public and near the building permit.

Much like the building department requires a building permit, our commissions require an approval placard to be displayed on site. This helps staff and residents to identify authorized work.

If you live in any of Boston's 10 historic districts or individually landmarked buildings we recommend placing your historic approval placard near your building permit on the first level of the property. It should be visible from the sidewalk and street. 

Yes! We offer application translations in the 12 most commonly spoken languages in Boston:

  • Arabic
  • Cape Verdean
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Portuguese (BR)
  • Portuguese (PR)
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Somali
  • Vietnamese

Interpretation and translation services are available to you at no cost. If you need them, please contact us at or 617-635-0935.

Tiene servicios de interpretación y traducción a su disposición sin coste alguno. Si los necesita, póngase en contacto con nosotros en el correo electrónico o llamando al 617-635-0935.

Sèvis entèpretation ak tradiksyon disponib pou ou san sa pa koute w anyen. Si w bezwen yo, tanpri kontakte nou nan oswa 617-635-0935.

不向您收取翻譯服務費。如您需要翻譯服務,請與我們連絡,發電子郵件至 或致電 617-635-0935

Các dịch vụ thông dịch và biên dịch được cung cấp cho quý vị hoàn toàn miễn phí. Nếu quý vị cần những dịch vụ này, vui lòng liên lạc với chúng tôi theo địa chỉ hoặc số điện thoại 617-635-0935.

不向您收取翻译服务费。如您需要翻译服务,请与我们联系,发电子邮件至 或致电617-635-0935。

Nu ta oferese-bu sirvisus di interpretason y traduson di grasa. Si bu meste kes sirvisu la, kontata-nu pa email ó pa telefóni, pa númeru 617-635-0935.

خدمات الترجمة الفوریة والترجمة التحریریة متوفرة لك دون أي تكلفة. إذا كنت بحاجة إلى تلك الخدمات، یرجى الاتصال بنا عبر :Arabic 6176350935 الرقم على أو

Услуги устного и письменного перевода предоставляются бесплатно. Если Вам они нужны, просьба связаться с нами по адресу электронной почты, либо по телефону 617-635-0935.

Você tem à disposição serviços gratuitos de interpretação e tradução. Se precisar deles, fale conosco: ou 617-635-0935.

Les services d’interprétation et de traduction sont à votre disposition gratuitement. Si vous en avez besoin, veuillez nous contacter à ou au 617-635-0935.

Landmark Designation

Landmark Designation

First, submit a draft petition to the Boston Landmarks Commission executive director. Your group will then need to meet with her to complete a petition that:

  • has basic information like address, parcel number and owner
  • describes historic, archiutectual or cultural significance at the State level, and
  • is signed by 10 registered Boston voters. See link for more.

If accepted by the Boston Landmarks Commission, we place the petition on the Pending Landmark list. Next steps include:

  • completing a Study Report, and
  • two more public votes by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

The Mayor and the City Council have the final say on the designation.

You can submit letters for or against the designation at the time an applicant submits a petition. Public comment is part of the public hearing process.

Listing on the National Register of Historic Places is an honorary designation by the federal government. The listing recognizes a site is historically significant at the local, state, or national level.

Projects involving federal or state funding are reviewed, and commercial projects can be eligible for tax credits. But, there is no protection against demolition.

Designated Boston Landmarks — including buildings in Historic Districts— have the highest level of protection.

Commissioners must review and approve any changes, including demolition. They base their decisions on guidelines developed through a public process.

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