Historic Plaques Program

The Historic Plaque Program

Sample of a Belmont Historic Plaque which can now be obtained for any qualifying site in Belmont.

We presented plaques to recipients at our Jan 2023 winter gathering.

The Belmont Historical Society established a Historic House Plaque Program in 2013 to raise the awareness and appreciation of historic structures in the town. Living in and maintaining a historic house provides an important link to the past, and this program was designed to encourage property owners to share information about the unique architectural features of their property with the community. The fundamental objective is to preserve and celebrate the rich heritage found throughout Belmont. Belmont’s “Town of Homes” distinction is supported by the diversity of architectural styles that make up the mainly residential landscape. Belmont still boasts three properties which date from the 1600’s, a half dozen or so built in the 1700’s and even more which were built around the time of the town’s incorporation in 1859 through to the mid-1900’s. All over town one can find notable examples of almost every architectural style including the Federal period 1780-1830, Greek and Gothic revival 1830-1870, Second Empire 1855-1875, Bungalow and Craftsman 1910-1920, and even several of the modern International style 1940-1960.

The Historic House Plaque Program is not competitive in the sense that there is no limit to the number of plaques that can be awarded so long as each property meets the criteria established below. Also, the Historic Program does not impose any restrictions on what the property owner can do with the property in the future. The requirements for obtaining a plaque are the following:

(1) The property must be at least 50 years old.

(2) The property must have retained the integrity of the original design and construction. Additions or alterations do not necessarily exclude a property unless the structure no longer retains the significant elements of its original style. Questions about the historic integrity of modifications or additions will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

(3) There must be a clear and complete chain of title tracing the property from its original construction to the present day.

The Belmont Historical Society awards Historic Plaques each year at its holiday program in December and at its annual meeting in May. The first plaques were awarded in May 2014, and the following properties have received plaques since:

Year Built House Name Address Joined
1853 William Flagg Homer House 661 Pleasant St 2014
c 1853 Reverend Daniel Butler House 36 Sycamore St 2014
1896 All Saints Church 69 Common St 2014
1922 Viola E. McNeil House 36 Harriet Ave 2014
1930 Tobey-Packard Road 26 Tobey Rd 2014
c 1693 Abraham Hill House 388 Pleasant St 2014
1856 “Widow” Brown House 81 Clark St 2014
1845 Henry Frost Farmhouse 307 Pleasant St 2014
1850 Albert Higgins House 30 Somerset St 2014
1836 Samuel Orlando Mead House 346 Concord Ave 2015
1889-1910 Underwood Greenhouses 20 School St 2015
1895 Amos Taylor House 117 School St 2015
1887 Eleazer Bartlett Homer House 634 Pleasant St 2015
c 1840 Samuel O. Mead Carriage House 346 Concord Ave 2015
1896 Bartlett House 90 School St 2016
1774 Josiah Shattuck House 981 Concord Ave 2016
1895 Daniel House 93 School St 2017
1910 Armstrong Firenze House 3 Clover St 2018
1897 Bathrick House 29 Oak St 2018
1895 Brown House 57 Unity Ave 2018
1877 McDonald House 618 Pleasant St 2018
1863 Mahoney House 653 Concord Ave 2018
1851 James Brown House 710 Pleasant St 2018
1850 Alexander House 592 Pleasant St 2018
1897 Worth House 35 Oak St 2018
1889 Frost-Ahern House 308 Lake St 2018
1920 John V. McCarthy House 232 Trapelo Rd 2018
1895 Alfred B. Parker House 17 Myrtle St 2018
1900 Payne House 135 School St 2019
1904 Grace P. Jones House 97 School St 2019
1929 Cotswold Cottage 4 Essex Rd 2019
1916 Wigglesworth House 1 Colonial Terrace 2019
1896 Saniford House 9 Goden St 2019
1781 Capt Joseph Bright House 306 Washington St 2020
1807 Thomas Richardson House 336 Washington St 2020
1916 Wigglesworth House 1 Colonial Ter 2020
1898 Miss Howe’s School 23 Myrtle St 2021
1894 Mary Ford House 11 Oak St 2021
1841 Edwin Locke Farmhouse 5 Somerset St 2021
1881 George & Anna Prentiss House 206 Prospect St 2021
1827 Thaddeus Frost House 291 Brighton St 2022
1908 Fred C. Garmon House 34 Cushing Ave 2022
1895 Graham-Floyd House 12 Goden St 2023
1896 Lucy Sherman House 12 Goden St 2023
1927 “Doc” Edgerton-Ellenport House 205 School St 2023

Application Process

Applications for a Historic Plaque may be submitted at any time. Property owners should complete and submit an application form together with the following supporting material:

(1) Evidence that the property meets the three criteria stated earlier. (Scroll down this page to find more information on how to trace the history of a specific property.)

(2) Current photographs (prints or digital image files) of the front and side elevations of the property.

The completed applications should be mailed to:

Belmont Historical Society
336 Concord Ave
Belmont, MA 02478

After the application has been approved, the property owner must submit a check payable to the “Belmont Historical Society” for the appropriate fee:

Members of the Belmont Historical Society: $150
Non-Members: $175 (includes a one-year membership in the Society)
Property owners with existing historic plaques who desire a replacement: $100

Once the application is approved and the fee has been paid, the property owner can choose between two different sizes of the rectangular plaques and two different background colors (white or cream). The historic markers (crafted by Ould Colony Artisans in Wiscasset, ME) come complete with mounting hardware and directions for mounting and placement on the building which is the responsibility of the property owner.

If there are any questions about the application process or the eligibility of a specific property, please contact us at belmonthistory1859@gmail.com or call us at (617) 993-2878.

Tracing the History of a Property

Establishing a clear and complete history of a property from its original construction to the present day is a key requirement for the Historic Plaque Program. This requires finding the chain of title (the sequence of owners and the dates of title transfers) and the dates of any significant changes to the property or its use. At the time of the first Historic Plaque awards in 2014, Joe Cornish, an architectural historian, former President of the Belmont Historical Society, and one of the leaders in establishing the Historic Plaque Program, gave a talk about how to trace the history of Belmont property. That comprehensive overview and tutorial is available as a 23-minute video that you can view. The video is available through the courtesy of the Belmont Media Center. You may view that video by clicking here. More information about some of the resources discussed in the video follows.

Massachusetts Historical Commission. The Massachusetts Historical Commission was established by the state legislature in 1963 to identify, evaluate, and protect important historical and archaeological assets of the Commonwealth. One of the important resources that the Commission created is the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), an online searchable database of information on historic properties and areas in the Commonwealth that is available at http://mhc-macris.net/

MACRIS is a good place to begin research on a Belmont property since it currently includes 735 Belmont properties and structures for which historical research has already been done. (Not all of the 735 Belmont properties in the database are private residences; some are town buildings and institutional facilities.) To see a static summary report of those 735 properties (sorted by street), click here. Eleven of the Belmont properties that have already been awarded a Historic Plaque are included in the MACRIS database; click here to see a slideshow of those properties with the photographs that are part of the MACRIS records. Each of the properties in the MACRIS database has a unique Inventory Number (BLM.XXX). Some (but not all) of the MACRIS records include a report (“Form B”) that gives detailed information about the history of the property. Click here to see the “Form B” report for BLM.120, the Widow Brown Cottage which has a Belmont Historic Plaque. If your property is included in the printout report of 735 Belmont properties, go to the online MACRIS database to find out what information is already available on your property.

If a property is included in the MACRIS database with a Form B report (indicated by the “INV” marker in the online MACRIS search results), that is all that is needed for the Historic Plaque application. Otherwise, you will need to establish a chain of title that is typically done through the Registry of Deeds.

Massachusetts Land Records. The Massachusetts Registry of Deeds has an online system (masslandrecords.com) that permits electronic searches of deeds. Belmont is included in the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds that is accessible at www.masslandrecords.com/MiddlesexSouth. The home page of that website provides some useful information on how to use the masslandrecords.com database and the various types of searches that can be made. The most effective search procedure is to use the Registry book and page numbers for the deed history of the property of interest. The book and page number for the current deed is usually stamped on the deed itself. It is also included on the quarterly real estate tax bill that the property owner receives from the town. With that as a starting point, you can work your way back to the deed of the previous owner and the date that it was transferred. Continue the sequential search until the previous deed was for the land with no building on it. Click here to see an example of a chain of title for a property. The essential elements are (a) the date of each change of ownership, (b) the names of the parties to the ownership transfer, and (c) the Registry book and page number with the record of the deed transfer.

Unfortunately, the masslandrecords.com online database only goes back to 1900. For earlier history, you will need to visit the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds office at 208 Cambridge Street in Cambridge (telephone 617-679-6300) that is open from 8:00a.m. to 3:45p.m. on weekdays and continue the search the old-fashioned way – by using the physical Registry record books.

Other Sources. There are several publications about Belmont that may be helpful in researching specific property. They are described on our Publications page. The most useful book may be Belmont: The Architecture and Development of The Town of Homes. This book is the report of the 1982 architectural and historic survey of Belmont conducted by a team from Boston University under the sponsorship of the Belmont Historic District Commission. Unfortunately, that book is out of print, but copies of it and the other books mentioned are available for review and research in the Belmont Historical Society’s collection in the Claflin Room of the Belmont Public Library.