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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.
  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.
  • A Landmark District: An area above local significance (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 submitting a petition must complete a draft petition and submit it to the BLC Executive Director at BLC@boston.gov. The Executive Director will review the draft petition and set up a meeting to discuss it. Petitioners take an active role in the petition process. Your petition must include a written summary of the history and significance of the resource you'd like to designate. For guidance, take a look at our research and technical assistance page.

The process to submit a complete petition begins after you meet with the Executive Director. Boston voters' signatures are required on the petition. The Mayor or an individual BLC commissioner 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. When a final draft Study Report is ready, it will be posted for a period of public feedback. After feedback is gathered, and the study report amended if necessary, 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 designated Individual Landmarks and properties within local historic districts are reviewed and approved by the Commission through the design review process. Thoughtful changes that follow guidelines contained in the Landmark's study report 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? Is your property eligible? Check the pdf for Boston historic resources listed on the Mass. State Register of Historic Places.

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