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Landmarks Commission common questions

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

If you have any follow-up questions, please contact us at 617-635-3850 or



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.

You can send any artifact identification questions or concerns about an archaeological site or artifact to Photos are very helpful.

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 commission is Boston’s historic preservation agency. We perform a wide range of preservation planning and cultural resource management functions.

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

You can 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 02201

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. You can submit your application and evidence to:

Boston Landmarks Commission
1 City Hall Square, Room 709
Boston, MA 02201

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:

Boston Landmarks Commission
1 City Hall Square, Room 709
Boston, MA 02201

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 617-635-3850 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.

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.

At this time, only applications for work in the South End Landmark District and Beacon Hill Architectural District must display their approvals on site.

Much like the building department requires a building permit, the South End Landmark District Commission requires an approval placard to be displayed on site. This helps staff and residents to identify authorized work.

If you live in the South End or Beacon Hill, 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. All other historic districts do not require a placard to be displayed at this time.



First, you need to meet with the Boston Landmarks Commission executive director. You’ll need to complete a complete petition that:

  • shows historic significance at the State level, and
  • is signed by 10 registered Boston voters to go to a public hearing.

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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