Preservation Planning Division

Since its inception in 1963, MHC has worked closely with local preservation groups. The majority of the communities in the Commonwealth now benefit from preservation programs. The Preservation Planning staff is responsible for assisting and encouraging local groups to become strong advocates for historic preservation planning.


The first step in a community's preservation planning process is to identify, describe and locate buildings, structures, objects, areas, burial grounds, landscape features, and sites that are of historical, architectural, or archaeological importance to the community, the state, or the nation. A comprehensive inventory of a town's historical assets serves as the basis for all future preservation activities. This inventory becomes part of a statewide inventory and enables MHC staff and local preservationists to make consistent and informed preservation decisions. MHC maintains a statewide survey at the reconnaissance level in order to formulate a broad context for evaluating the significance of historic and prehistoric properties.

Information on the FY 2018 Survey and Planning Grant Program

Information on MHC's state reconnaissance survey regional and town reports.

Presently the MHC is entering the statewide inventory into the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), an interactive computerized database. MACRIS provides better access to the information on these files.

Related publications: 

Know How #5 (PDF)

Know How #6 (PDF)

Downloadable Survey and Inventory Forms

Form A, Area (Word)

Form B. Building (Word)

Form C, Object (Word)

Form E, Burial Ground (Word)

Form F, Structure (Word)

Form F, Bridge (Word)

Form H , Parks and Landscapes Page 1 (Word)

Inventory Continuation Sheet  (Word)

National Register of Historic Places Criteria Statement Form (Word)

Local Historical Commissions

Established by a vote of the town or city government, a Local Historical Commission* (LHC) is the municipal agency responsible for ensuring that preservation concerns are considered in community planning and development decisions. Over 340 LHCs across Massachusetts are already established and working closely with the MHC. They serve as local preservation advocates and as an important resource for information about their community's cultural resources and preservation activities.

*(MGL Ch. 40 Section 8d)

Certified Local Government Program

The Certified Local Government Program* (CLG) is a unique partnership that provides a close integration of federal, state, and local preservation activities. Communities that have enacted historic preservation legislation are eligible to apply to MHC for certification. By extending state and federal programs at the local level, the CLG program allows communities to participate directly in the review and approval of National Register nominations. CLGs are eligible to compete for at least 10 percent of the federal funds allocated to MHC.

*(National Historic Preservation Act of 1980, 36 CFR Part 61)

Local Historic Districts

A Local Historic District* (LHD) is established and administered by a community to protect the distinctive characteristics of important areas, and to encourage new structural designs that are compatible with the area's historic setting. A District Study Committee is appointed to conduct a survey of the area and to prepare a preliminary report for local and state review. A final report is then submitted to the local governing body for approval of the local historic district ordinance or by-law. Once a LHD is established, a Local Historic District Commission (LHDC) is appointed to review all applications for exterior changes to properties within the district. This design review process assures that changes to properties will not detract from the district's historic character. Review criteria are determined by each city and town and vary for each local district.

*(MGL Ch. 40C)

National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places* (NRHP) documents and records the nation's important and irreplaceable buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts worthy of protection. Based on local and state surveys, nominations to the NRHP are generally initiated by the local historical commission, which works with MHC staff to prepare the form. Nominations are then reviewed by the MHC State Review Board at a public meeting and forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register for approval.

Listing on the NRHP recognizes the value of our nation's historical and cultural heritage and provides a basis for making informed planning and development decisions. NRHP status places no constraints on what owners may do with their property when using private funding. While the NRHP is not a design review program, it does provide limited protection from state and federal actions, as well as eligibility for matching state and federal restoration and research grants (when available) and certain federal tax benefits for certified rehabilitation projects.

*(National Historic Preservation Act , 36 CFR Part 60)

Downloadable National Register Forms

National Register of Historic Places Criteria Statement Form (Word)

Related publications:

Know How #3 (PDF)

Get Adobe Reader

State Register of Historic Places

The State Register of Historic Places* (SRHP) was created to serve as a master list of designated historic properties in the Commonwealth and to provide an added measure of protection to these properties. Properties are included on the State Register if they are: listed in or determined eligible for listing in the NRHP; within local historic districts; local, state, and national landmarks; state archaeological landmarks; or properties with preservation restrictions. The SRHP serves as a guide for developers and state agencies in order to determine whether a state funded, permitted, or licensed project will affect historic properties. The State Register review process was modeled closely after the federal review process (outlined under the Technical Services Division section of this brochure), and ensures that State Register properties will not inadvertently be harmed by activities supported by state agencies. Available for sale at the State House Bookstore 617-727-2834.

*(MGL Ch. 9 Sections 26-27C, as amended)