title historic districts

Local historic districts have three major purposes as stated in Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 40C:

  • to preserve and protect the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places significant in the history of the Commonwealth and its cities and towns;
  • to maintain and improve the settings of those buildings and places;
  • to encourage new designs compatible with existing buildings in the district.

establishinglocalhistoricdistrictsThe benefits of local historic districts are many. The Local Historic District:

  • has been credited with saving the character of many areas in Massachusetts;
  • has provided protection from inappropriate remodeling and demolitions;
  • has provided assurance that the historic  environment will be there for future generations to enjoy
  • has provided a visual sense of the past;
  • creates pride in the community;
  • creates neighborhood stabilization, and
  • provides schoolchildren with educational opportunities.

Historic districts do not prevent all changes from occurring, nor do they prevent all demolition, new construction or development. The intent is to make changes and additions harmonious, and prevent the intrusion of incongruous elements that might detract from the aesthetic and historic values of the district. Historic district commissions are only allowed to review changes to exterior architectural features visible from a public way. The ordinance or bylaw creating the district may also exclude certain categories from review; most frequently these are storm windows and doors, and window air conditioning units. The purpose of a local historic district is not to halt growth, but to allow for thoughtful consideration of change.

Harvard has two historic districts: the Harvard Common Historic District and the Shaker Village Historic District. One of the key responsibilities of the Commission is to regulate the modifications to the exteriors of the properties in those Districts.

The following maps are referenced by Chapter 48 of our Bylaw on Historic Districts:

  • Plan of Shaker Village Historic District — Revision C. [Amended 3-28-2015 Annual Town Meeting Article 38], and
  • Plan of Harvard Common Historic District — Revision D. [Amended 3-28-2015 Annual Town Meeting, Article 38)

constitute the current legal basis for the jurisdiction of the Commission.

Since the original drawing of the maps in the 1970’s, some changes have been made to our Assessor’s Maps including the transition to HarvardGIS which allows us to produce more accurate and more readable maps. Maps for each district have been drafted that use the latest Assessors’ HarvardGIS maps. Now that HarvardGIS is on-line, the Commission will soon add a map layer to HarvardGIS that will include the two maps for our two districts and will include the locations of all historic properties on the Local Register, the State Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, all historic properties that have been declared Local Landmarks or which have been placed under a Preservation Restriction will be identified on the HarvardGIS layer for the Historical Commission.

(To view or download either map to print or save on your local storage, click on the maps below.)

Harvard Common District map v4c1 Shaker Village District Harvardbase v3
Harvard Common Historic District,  (Rev D, Adopted March 28, 2015) Harvard Shaker Village Historic District,  (Rev C, Adopted March 28, 2015)


  1. Dear Historical District
    We are contacting you to ask for your participation in a study of the content and effectiveness of demolition ordinances. We would like for you to take part in an online survey that will take about 15 minutes to complete. The link to the survey is: http://bit.ly/UofMdemolitionstudy

    If you are not at all familiar with your community’s ordinance, please pass this e-mail along to the appropriate individual.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the principal investigator, Dr. Victoria Morckel, Assistant Professor of Earth and Resource Science at the University of Michigan-Flint by e-mail at morckel@umflint.edu or by phone at 810-237-6597. You may also reply to this e-mail.

    Thank you very much for your time and participation!
    Henry Cole
    Graduate Student Research Assistant
    University of Michigan-Flint


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