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Designating Landmarks in Boston

Learn about the process for designating individual Landmarks and local historic districts.

The Landmarks Commission (BLC) 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:

  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 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, Regional, 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. Those interested in a petition to designate should complete a draft petition and submit it to The Executive Director will review your petition and reach out to set up a meeting to discuss it. 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, take a look at our research and technical assistance page.

In general, the process to Landmark a historic resource begins with a complete petition. Ten registered Boston voters sign and submit a petition. A BLC Commissioner or the Mayor can also submit a petition. If the BLC votes to accept the petition at a public hearing, the petition is added to the pending Landmarks list. The next step in the process is to prepare a Study Report. After a Study Report is completed, a draft is posted for public feedback. Once feedback is gathered, the Landmarks Commission votes on designation. The Mayor and City Council then also vote on the designation.

Once designated, Landmark status protects a historic 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 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.

Please note: There are substantial differences between local Landmark designation and listing on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Applying for Community Preservation Act funding? Here is a searchable pdf for Boston historic resources listed on the Mass. State Register of Historic Places.

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