BEAUTIFUL HARVARD has many treasures that are loved by its citizens and which continue to draw people. In a simple drive-through, the rolling hills, open fields and beautiful, old homes are apparent and very appealing. Take a closer look and you will learn about Harvard’s excellent schools, a culture of volunteerism that engages the residents in its town government, its art, cultural, sports and social activities that span all age groups.
In the early 1970’s, the town residents decided to take advantage of the Commonwealth’s law to preserve one aspect of its wealth: its historic places. The town voted to establish an historical commission and soon after identified two historic districts that they considered were especially important to the town. These were the town Common in the town’s center and the Shaker Village in northeast Harvard.
Since then, the Harvard Historical Commission has established some ‘Design Guidelines’ which customize the town’s historical bylaw to our local requirements. These design guidelines are the basis for the Historical Commission’s quasi-judicial administration of the two districts. Here, the Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to the exteriors of the properties.
It is important to remember that at the same time, the town also chose to give the Commission the additional responsibility to advise the town property owners on how to best preserve all of its historic properties whether inside or outside the historic districts. This responsibility pertains to the exteriors as well as the interiors of the properties but here, the historical preservation advice is not binding on the property owners.
Since its inception, the Commission has documented more than 500 historical properties in Harvard including Devens which have been submitted to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for registration. In addition, the Commission has managed the preservation of several of our historic gems outside of our districts. Several other historic places were nominated and accepted for the National Register. The Commission publishes a website which documents this work and which it uses to communicate with the community and with its Commissioners: HHCOMMISSION.WORDPRESS.COM.
All of this work has been done at no expense to the taxpayers. So far, the Commission, by choice, has been operating without a budget. But to make that happen, a long list of very generous citizens beginning with Miss Elvira Scorgie, have dedicated their lives to this work.
Now, we must sound the clarion for help and return to the work that the early Commissioners started decades ago:
- to identify and survey all of our historical places, not just those in our historic districts;
- to work with the residents of our historic districts to help them preserve their historic properties not just with our public hearings but during the planning and implementation phases before and after the public hearing;
- to plan, organize and implement an education and training program for our commissioners and for our town residents and finally,
- to research, identify and compete for grants and funding sources to help finance some of our municipal historic preservation projects.
To do this, we must implement our new strategy to augment the capability of our Commission by giving it a Commission Staff who will carry out the programs of the Commission. Read about our plans to augment the Commission on our ‘ABOUT US‘ page. You can see that there is a wide variety of opportunities for getting involved in preserving our historical places in Harvard.
The extent to which we succeed in continuing the work of our predecessors depends on you and your continued generosity. Give us your time, and we will give you the necessary training in addition to the camaraderie and enjoyment of contributing to the beauty and culture of our BEAUTIFUL HARVARD. We are very flexible on the hours that our volunteer staff can give us. So try us out!