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How landmarks are designated in Boston

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Landmarks Commission

One of the most common questions we receive concerns the City’s process for landmark designation.

The Boston Landmarks Commission may designate different types of resources, constructed or natural, as local landmarks. A local landmark designation offers protection from physical changes that might compromise historic integrity. This designation is quite different from a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which is an honorary title that can support tax credits for commercial properties.

The Boston skyline from Dorchester Heights in South Boston

Based on the level of significance, the Landmarks Commission may vote to designate:

  • An Individual Landmark: A property or physical feature with significance above the local level.
  • A Landmark District: Property with significance above the local level (state or national).
  • An Architectural Conservation District: Property 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 process begins with a request to meet with the Boston Landmarks Commission Executive Director from interested parties or petitioners who take an active role in the petition process by thorough research of the history of the resource. 

In general, the process 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 Landmarks Commission votes to accept the petition, it is added to the pending list. The next step is preparation of a study report.  When a study report is completed, it is presented to the public for feedback, then there is a public hearing where the commission votes on designation. The Mayor and City Council must also vote on designation.

Changes to pending and designated landmarks, and to properties within Local Historic Districts, are 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. Learn more about designating landmarks.

Our most recently designated landmark is the St. James African Orthodox Church at 50 Cedar Street, Roxbury, which was designated a landmark in 2018. We have begun a test procedure to shorten the amount of time to produce a study report.

We are also pleased that a Study Committee for the long-pending Highland Park Architectural Conservation District was appointed and is working on completing the study report for what could become Boston’s newest district.

Our most recently accepted petitions await a completed study report and an official designation vote by the Landmarks Commission, Mayor and City Council.

  • 272.21 Shirley-Eustis Place, Shirley Street, Roxbury 
  • 271.20 Robert Swan House, 29 High Street, Dorchester 
  • 270.20 Daniel Withington House, 19 Ashland Street, Dorchester 
  • 269.20 Howe-Kingsley House, 16 Howe Street, Dorchester 
  • 268.20 Old South Meeting House, 2 Milk Street, Downtown 
  • 267.20 Stanhope Stable, Stanhope Street, Back Bay 
  • 266.19 Tileston House, 13 River Street, Mattapan 
  • 265.19 Old North Church Complex, 193 Salem Street, North End 
  • 264.19 North Bennet Street Bath House & Gymnasium, 30-32 North Bennet Street, North End 
  • 263.18 Calf Pasture Pumping Station, 435 Mount Vernon Street, Dorchester 
  • 259.17 Bond-Hampton House, 88 Lambert Avenue, Roxbury

You can check online to find out the status of all petitions submitted to the Landmarks Commission. We also have more information about how to designate a Boston landmark.