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Preservation of the Commonwealth’s cultural heritage is an important aspect of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s mission. The cultural resources that can be found in our state parks and forests span thousands of years and includes Native American sites, cellar holes and stones walls that tell the story of the state’s earliest settlement patterns, military landscapes, historic estates, and a metropolitan park system designed by a pioneer of the profession of landscape architecture, Charles Eliot. With over 100 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including eight National Historic Landmarks, the cultural resources under DCR’s care tells the story of our state and our nation. The Office of Cultural Resources (OCR) carries out the DCR’s preservation mission through stewardship of the agency’s historic buildings, structures, landscapes, archaeological sites, and archival resources.

OCR staff provides professional expertise, technical assistance, project management skills, and training opportunities in the areas of landscape preservation, preservation planning, adaptive reuse, archaeology, archival records management , and compliance with local, state and federal historic preservation laws. In addition to leading the historic preservation programs and initiatives of the agency, OCR staff directly support activities undertaken by other bureaus and divisions within the agency. As a leader in the field of historic landscape preservation, the office also provides assistance to cities and towns through the development of innovative tools for protecting their significant historic landscapes.

Contact: Patrice Kish, Director at 617-626-1378

From the Archives

From the Field:  Summit House, Skinner State Park

skinner house   

The Summit House stands atop Mount Holyoke, one of the most culturally significant sites in the state parks system. Written accounts of the view from Mount Holyoke first drew visitors to the summit in the late 1700s, and descriptions penned by such noted 19th century authors as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne attracted an international audience and placed Mount Holyoke on par with Niagara Falls as an American must-see destination. The view from Mount Holyoke also became widely famed through the work of 19th century artists celebrating the sublime nature of the American landscape, most notably in The Oxbow, painted in 1836 by Thomas Cole. Finally, the construction of buildings to feed and house visitors on major mountain peaks throughout New England was a popular trend throughout the mid- to late 19th century. Most of these historic summit houses have been lost to fire, natural disasters, or deterioration. The Summit House, built in 1851 and altered to its present appearance in 1861, is one of the last remaining intact examples of such structures. The building and site have just undergone a $1.2 million renovation to address structural deficiencies and implement a number of improvements that makes the porch deck and building interior independently accessible to persons of all abilities for the first time.