OSPCD - Historic Preservation

Within OSPCD's Planning & Zoning Division is the Historic Preservation Division. This division has two distinct work areas – Historic Preservation and Historic Events & Education. Information regarding Historic Events & Education is found here, while this page focuses on the regulatory aspects of Historic Preservation.

OSPCD works with the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission (SHPC) to ensure Somerville’s most important historic properties are preserved. On this page, you’ll find links to get help with your historic property, information about meetings and cases, and more.

  • Regulations & Procedures

  • Cases & Decisions

  • Meetings, Agendas, & Minutes

  • Historic Preservation Commission

  • Studies, Presentations, & Projects

  • Forms & Applications

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:

List of Somerville Local Historic Districts by Address

Demolition Review

Historic Districts

Additional Information

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 of the City Council. Members typically serve for three-year terms and can be re-appointed.

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

Alternates

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)

 

Purpose

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