Historic Preservation

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OSPCD's Historic Preservation Division keeps Somerville’s history alive by protecting historic properties, collecting photos and documents, and raising awareness in the community. OSPCD works with the Historic Preservation Commission to ensure Somerville’s most important historic properties are preserved. On this page, you’ll find links to get help with your historic property, learn about Somerville’s history, and more.

The Somerville Historic Preservation Commission (SHPC) was established in 1985. There are 14 volunteer members that include architects, historians, contractors, and other important figures. They work on things like:

  • Collecting historic documents, photos, and stories for the archive
  • Identifying historic buildings and districts
  • Enforcing historic district ordinances and demolition review ordinances
  • Holding regular public meetings to review cases for alterations or repairs on historic properties
  • Creating guidelines for making changes to historic properties
  • Providing community outreach for raising awareness of Somerville's history, like guided tours and local events
  • Sponsoring the annual Preservation Awards Program
  • Running the Somerville Memorabilia Shop

The OSPCD’s preservation planners are part of the City’s Planning Division. They support the SHPC and work with them to protect Somerville’s history. The OSPCD sector is responsible for things like:

  • Managing local historic districts and city-owned historic properties.
  • Helping the SHPC enforce rules, like the historic district ordinance and the demolition review ordinance.
  • Expanding historic districts and monitoring projects within those districts.
  • Helping owners of historic properties get technical information to help with renovations or changes.
  • Getting grants to plan reconstruction or restoration of historic municipal properties.
  • Historic Property Ownership

  • Somerville's History

  • Historic Preservation Commission

  • Studies, Presentations, & Projects

  • Forms & Applications

  • Meetings, News, & Events

  • Get in Touch

  • Photos, Videos, & Memorabilia

If you own a historic property, you’ll have to follow certain rules if you want to make repairs or changes to your home. Preservation planners at the OSPCD can help you with technical information throughout the process. The Historic Preservation Commission also offers advice to homeowners who need help adhering to design standards and other guidelines. Below, you’ll find links to important information that may impact your property:

Researching Your House and Family History

Historic Regulations

Historic Preservation Awards

Local Historic Districts

Over the years, The Historic Preservation Commission has collected documents, photos, and stories about Somerville’s history. They provide online classes and a variety of materials to people who want to learn about historic properties in the City. There’s also a selection of videos and self-guided tours through the City’s historic districts. Click any of the links below to start exploring Somerville’s fascinating history!

Researching Your House and Family History


Established in 1985, the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission (SHPC) enforces the City's Historic District Ordinance as well as its Demolition Review Ordinance. The Commission has seven regular members and seven alternates. All fourteen (14) members are volunteers from various backgrounds. By Ordinance the regular members must be Somerville residents and include an architectural historian, an architect, a licensed real estate broker, a city planner, a lawyer, and two resident members with a demonstrated commitment to historic preservation. The alternates include a resident of a historic district, a landscape architect, a licensed general contractor or person in the building trades, and a person with a background in any of the above-mentioned categories, and five of the alternates must be Somerville residents. All members of the SHPC are appointed by the Mayor with approval by the Board of Aldermen. Members typically serve for three-year terms and can be re-appointed.

Agendas & Minutes

Cases and Decisions

Historic Preservation Awards

Meeting Schedule

Regular Members

2 or more must be Local Historic District (LHD) residents.

  1. Architectural Historian – Caitlin Hart - Secretary
  2. Architect – Eric Parkes (LHD)
  3. Real Estate Agent – Robin Kelly (LHD)
  4. City Planner – Ryan Falvey
  5. Lawyer– Dick Bauer
  6. Citizen Member – Alan Bingham (LHD) - Chair
  7. Citizen Member – Mark Sternman – Vice Chair


5 out of 7 must be Somerville residents. #4-7 may be any category of a regular member.

  1. Historic District Resident – (Vacant)
  2. Landscape Architect – Denis J. Chagnon
  3. Contractor/Building Tradesperson – Adam T. Wylie
  4. (Vacant)
  5. (Vacant)
  6. Citizen Member – Anthony Griseto
  7. (Vacant)



The SHPC reviews any alterations or repairs to properties in a Local Historic District (LHD) that are visible from a public way and that would result in an irreversible change in the design, materials, or outward appearance of the structure. It also reviews any changes in the general arrangement of the building's features or its architectural details, such as the arrangement of windows or doors. The SHPC does not review cases that involve routine maintenance or replacement of any part of the property using the same design and materials as the original building. The SHPC also does not review cases in which buildings have been destroyed by fire or other disaster, as long as the reconstruction occurs within a year and is substantially similar to the original building in exterior design, type of use, and size. The SHPC offers pro bono professional advice, practical information, and pertinent references about materials and techniques used in historic preservation and restoration, and provides technical assistance throughout design and construction. SHPC has developed specific guidelines to aid historic property owners in making appropriate and sensitive decisions about alterations, additions, and repairs to their properties. 

The SHPC also administers the City's Demolition Review Ordinance adopted in 2003. This ordinance affects properties built fifty (50) or more years ago and that are not already designated as part of a Local Historic District. You can find the Demolition Review Ordinance at this link.

The Commission sponsors a Preservation Awards Program that culminates each year in a ceremony at the Somerville Museum to honor owners who have made an outstanding effort to preserve, maintain, or restore their properties. Typically six "Preservation Awards" are given to designated historic properties and six "Director Awards" are presented for work on older, but not designated properties. To apply for this award, see the Nomination for Preservation Awards under Forms and Applications.

The SHPC periodically sponsors special programs on City Cable television and articles in local newspapers related to important historic issues, activities, and figures.


OSCPD and the Historic Preservation Commission work together to identify, expand, and protect local historic districts. Below, you’ll find recent case studies and presentations regarding these districts and other historic property projects.

Union Square Post Office Study

Somerville's 175th Anniversary

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Sarah M. White
Planner/Preservation Planner, Planning Division
Liason to the Historic Preservation Commission
(617) 625-6600 x2534
[email protected]