Town of Orleans Historical Commission


What is the Historical Commission?

The Orleans Historical Commission was established by Town Meeting on March 8, 1965. Section 40, 8D of the Massachusetts General Laws LINK charges historical commissions with the preservation, protection, and development of the historical and archeological assets of the town.
The Orleans Historical Commission consists of five regular members and two alternates, each appointed by the Select Board for three-year terms. Regular meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month in Orleans Town Hall, and additional meetings are scheduled as dictated by workload or special circumstances. All meetings are posted and open to the public.

The Commission’s mission is to encourage the preservation of the rich history and heritage of the Town of Orleans, and to protect those historic structures, landscapes, and areas that reflect that heritage. The Commission recognizes its responsibility to carry out this mission in a vigorous yet responsible manner. We do not advocate the preservation of every building simply because it is old, or buildings where the historical significance has been compromised due to local development. However, we will selectively and judiciously seek to preserve and protect those areas and structures that represent and elucidate our rich and varied history. To this end, we have developed a set of criteria to guide us in this effort.

The Commission pursues its goals through continual research on the history of our town and its historic resources, the development of educational presentations and materials, public advocacy, and proposing new tools that will further enable us to preserve the character of our special place on Cape Cod.

At present, the only regulatory tool available to the Commission is Chapter 106 of the Orleans Town Code, also known as the Demolition Delay Bylaw. Under this bylaw, the Historical Commission reviews applications to demolish buildings that are listed on the Orleans Historic Properties Survey. If the Commission determines that a building is “preferably preserved” it may impose a one-year delay on any demolition, so that alternatives may be considered. While this bylaw may serve as a deterrent to demolishing historic buildings, and there have been a few cases where demolition did not go forward, it has not appreciably slowed the steady loss of our historic treasures in the past.

The Commission considers public support to be our most important asset. To this end, we encourage public attendance at our meetings, as well as communications to us on our email at [email protected].