So you want to put zebra striped vinyl siding on your house and it's in the Hopedale Village National
Register District? The good news is, yes, you can. The bad news is, yes, you can. The following is
from a pamphlet put out by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
There's a Difference!
There are substantial differences between a Local Historic District and a National Register District.
This brochure has been prepared by the Massachusetts Historical Commission to help clarify these
National Register Districts
A National Register District is part of the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of
Historic Places is the list of individual buildings, sites, structures and objects, as well as districts,
deemed important in American history, culture, architecture or archaeology. It is a federal designation
and is administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the Massachusetts Historical Commission
as the State Historic Preservation Office.
Listing in the National Register:
recognizes that the area is important to the history of the community, state or nation.
allows the owners of income-producing properties certain federal tax incentives for rehabilitation.
provides limited protection from adverse effects by federal or state involved projects.
If there is no state or federal involvement in a project (such as federal licenses, permits or funding)
and no pertinent local or regional regulations (such as a local historic district), then listing in the
National Register of Historic Places does not limit an owner's handling of the property at all.
There are over 900 National Register Districts in Massachusetts.
The National Register of Historic Places, begun in 1966, promotes an appreciation of our diverse
cultural heritage. Communities with National Register Districts take great pride in this federal
Note: A National Register District cannot be listed if a majority of the property owners submit notarized
objections. Every owner of record of private property has the opportunity to comment and/or object to
the nomination, and has one vote regardless of whether they own a single property, multiple
properties, or a portion of a property.
Local Historic Districts
In general, local historic districts are far more effective at preventing inappropriate changes than a
National Register District. In a local historic district, proposed changes to exterior architectural
features visible from a public way are reviewed by a locally appointed Historic District Commission.
For instance, if a building addition was proposed in a local historic district, the property owner would
submit an application to the Historic District Commission. The Historic District Commission would
hold a public hearing and make a determination on whether the new addition was appropriate. If the
addition was appropriate, the Historic District Commission would issue a Certificate, allowing the
work to progress. Many Historic District Commissions have prepared Historic District Guidelines that
clarify how proposed projects should respect the existing historic character.
Local Historic Districts in Massachusetts were first established on Beacon Hill and Nantucket in
1955. There are now over 200 local historic districts in Massachusetts. Local Historic Districts have
been very effective at saving historic structures, neighborhoods and villages from inappropriate
alterations and demolition.
Following the steps outlined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40C, Local Historic Districts are
established by a two thirds majority city council or town meeting vote.
By establishing a local historic district, a community recognizes the importance of its architectural
heritage and how vulnerable it is to inappropriate alterations without this local regulation.
Many proposed changes are exempt from review. In a local historic district, there is no review of
interior features. In addition, a variety of exterior features are often exempt such as air conditioning
units, storm doors, storm windows, paint color and temporary structures. The decision on which
features are exempt from review depends on how the local bylaw or ordinance is written and passed
by your city council or town meeting vote.
Can a property be designated as part of a National Register District and as a part of a Local Historic
Yes, in this case property owners receive all the benefits from the federal listing and the assurance
that the local law or ordinance will protect the historic area from inappropriate alteration.
If my property is within a National Register District, will it eventually be designated a Local Historic
District as well?
Not necessarily. An M.G.L. Chapter 40C Local Historic District is established only by a two thirds
majority vote of your city council or town meeting. It is a completely separate local process.
State Register of Historic Places
Properties within Local Historic Districts and National Register Districts are automatically included on
the State Register of Historic Places.
Listing in the State Register:
provides limited protection from adverse effects by state-involved projects.
When available, provides owners of municipal or private non-profit properties opportunity to apply for
50% matching state grants through the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund.
William Francis Galvin
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Historic District Dedication Architecture in Hopedale HOME