What Is the Historic District Commission?

The Medford Historic District Commission consists of members appointed by the Mayor and interested in historic preservation. The commission membership is generally made up of residents of the individual Districts, real estate professionals, architects, preservationists, attorneys, and interested citizens. The Medford Historic District Commission is separate from, but works in tandem with, the Medford Historical Commission.


What are the City-Designated Historic Districts in Medford?

There are two City-Designated Historic Districts at this time:

§  Hillside Avenue Historic District (also a National Historic District)

§  Marm Simonds Historic District


What are the other Historic Districts in Medford?

The Old Ship Street Historic District is a National Historic District not under the jurisdiction of the Medford Historic District Commission.


What Changes in Historic Districts Require Review by the Historic District Commission?

The ordinance requires that an Application be filed and a Historic District Commission review obtained for all exterior changes to properties located within a city-designated Historic District. Among the types of alterations that will be reviewed for appropriateness to the property and the historic district are:

§ Exterior remodeling, additions.

§ Demolition of any structure.

§ Siding, moldings, columns and trim material.

§ Doors and windows, shutters.

§ Roofing and gutters.

§ Chimneys and brickwork.

§ Fences and gates.

§ Accessory structures such as sheds and garages.

§ Equipment such as A/C condensers, satellite dishes, antennas.

§ Permanent and temporary signs and signs in windows visible from the street.

§ Stone walls, retaining walls.


What Changes in Historic Districts Do Not Require Review by the Historic District Commission?

·   Landscaping involving plants, trees, or shrubs.

·   Paint colors.

·   Storm windows and storm doors.

·   Attached exterior lighting fixtures.

·   Work not visible from the public rights of way.

·   Reconstruction work using materials similar to the original following fire or other disaster.

·   Work where no exterior architectural features are involved.


Residents of historic districts should check with the Commission with any questions about changes to their properties.


What are general Historic District Commission guidelines on the following requests?

Homeowners in the districts should consider the use of in-kind existing historically correct wood siding, shingles and brick building materials.  Vinyl, Azek and aluminum are seldom approved by the Commission.


Wood and metal, such as copper are always preferred. Painted aluminum, metal and PVC gutters and downspouts are generally approved for use.


Decorative trim and molding should be repaired or replaced with in-kind material.  The Commission, in the past, has generally approved Azek or equivalent materials when appropriate.


Although wood shutters are strongly suggested, painted vinyl has sometimes been approved.  Adding shutters should be appropriate to the period of the house.


Wherever possible, original windows and sashes, historic glass, mullion, muntin and any related original trim should be repaired.  If replacement becomes necessary, the replacement window should duplicate the original window in its design, the materials used and configuration.  Vinyl, aluminum, aluminum clad, vinyl clad or fiberglass windows are seldom approved by the Commission.


Again, wherever possible, original doors and hardware should be repaired.  If it becomes necessary to replace the door and/or its hardware, the replacement should duplicate the original door in material and style.  Steel, fiberglass or Masonite substitute are seldom approved by the Commission.


Existing wood fences and rock walls should be repaired and retained.  Fencing should be constructed of period appropriate materials. Fences constructed of vinyl and plastic as well as chain link, which are visible from the street, are seldom approved in Historic Districts.  Cast or wrought iron fences are generally approved when they are historically appropriate to the period of the house.


Barns, sheds, garages, greenhouses gazebos and other similar structures, with or without permanent foundations, if they are visible from the street, are subject to approval of the Historical District Commission.  They are decided on a case by case basis.


All roof repairs or replacement should be replacement in-kind whenever possible.  The Commission will consider replacement with a substitute material that is compatible with the existing roof.


SkylightsIn general, the Commission seldom approves changing the lines of an existing roof.  Skylights, if considered, should be installed so as not to be visible from the street.  Each proposal will be reviewed on a case by case basis.


Chimney size and style should not be changed. Repairs should use brick as close as possible to the original. Caps should be made of appropriate materials for the period of the house, wherever possible.


All modern equipment should be carefully sited.  Some equipment, such as solar panels requires a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Commission before installation.


How Do I Apply For an Application for a Certificate?

The application form is available at the Building Department or available as a PDF online. A completed application may be submitted to the Commission Office or emailed to info@medfordhdc.org


How Does the Historic District Commission Conduct Its Review?

Applications are reviewed at the Commission's monthly open meetings. Applicants are notified of the date and are invited to attend. One of the following Certificates must be provided by the Historic District Commission:

Certificate of Appropriateness.

Issued for those changes that are in conformance with the Historic District Ordinance and/or are acceptable to the Historic District Commission.


Certificate of Non-Applicability.

Issued for alterations which affect features deemed to be not detrimental to the district by the Historic District Commission. Examples include work not visible from the public rights of way, reconstruction work similar in material and design to the original following fire or other disaster, maintenance repairs or replacement using the same design and materials, or work where no exterior architectural features are involved.


Certificate of Hardship.

Issued for those changes which are not appropriate, but which may be necessary due to economic, physical, or other special conditions. A Certificate of Hardship may not be issued until a Certificate of Appropriateness has been denied, unless specific conditions, such as code violations, make such an application infeasible.



What is the Timeframe for Submitting Applications for a Certificate?

Applications for any certificate need to be returned at least three (3) weeks prior to the next meeting to allow for adequate time for commissioners to review the applications. An initial review will deter  mine if the application is complete. Upon receipt of the completed form, the commission shall schedule a public hearing, notices will be posted with the clerk, and the applicants, abutters and other interested parties will be notified. An application may be approved or denied at the public hearing, or it may be continued at subsequent meetings. If an extension is required, it shall be approved by the applicant and the commissioners. Once the commissioners make a determination, a certificate, if granted, will be issued to you within fourteen days.


What is the Required Documentation for an Application for a Certificate?

The following information must be included within the application to ensure a quick and timely response to any proposed work under the commission’s jurisdiction:


1.   Site plan – showing the existing building and location of proposed addition/alteration. City of Medford Assessors maps are acceptable (available at the Engineer’s Office).

2.   Architectural Drawings or Sketches – drawn to scale on at least 8.5” X 11” paper. The applicant may reduce drawings but must submit one full sized set. These plans must include floor plans and all major elevations, as well as any construction details.

3.   Photographs - 5x7 (one set color) showing the existing conditions including all four major elevation of the existing dwelling. Detail shots of the proposed area of construction (at least one) are required.

4.   Cut Sheets – product information required to detail proposed products applicable to construction.


What about Abutters and Legal Notifications?

The ordinance governing the Historic District requires all abutters, including across streets and ways in all directions, to be notified at least 14 days prior to meetings. The assessor’s office maintains a list of abutters which includes mailing addresses. All mailing costs and advertising fees in local papers shall be the responsibility of the applicant, through the Historic District Commission.


How May One Obtain More Information?

The Commission welcomes advance inquiries as to the applicability of the Historic District Ordinance. Inquiries may be made to the Historic District Commission via email at info@medfordhdc.org