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Fate of Main Street Mansion Undetermined

Matawan Historical Society member working to have house added to National Register of Historic Places

The fate of the large blue mansion on Main Street in Matawan is still up in the air, but those interested in preserving the 139-year-old building remain hopeful that the site will be added to the National Register of Historic Places in the near future.

Matawan Historical Commission member Betty Kauffmann, who also serves as the Matawan Historical Society archivist, began the process of nominating the property to be added to the registry in early 2011.

The process is long and arduous, Kauffmann said, adding that she is still working to fine tune the very detailed application to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Criteria to add a property to the registry include age, integrity and significance, according to the National Park Service (NPS), a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Properties are typically at least 50 years old and have significance because of unique or historical architechture, historical people or historical events. The integrity of the architechture must have also been preserved.

To be added to the registry, a site must be nominated at the state level with the SHPO, according to the NPS. An application can be filed by the property owner, historical societies, preservation societies, governmental agencies and other individuals and groups.

If the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) approves the nomination, they notify local government, the property owner or owners and anyone else affected by adding the property to the registry. The public and the property owner(s) have the opportunity to comment, and if there is no objection, the application continues on to the next step. However, the property cannot be listed if the property owner objects. In the case of an objection, the application may be forwarded to the National Park Service for a Determination of Eligibility (DOE), according to NPS, who can override the owners' objection.

Kauffmann believes the Second French Empire house, built in 1873 by a successful textile merchant and one-time mayor of Matawan, David Ryer, has historical value for it's age, unique architechture and because Ryer and his family lived there.

"An old house like this is a connection to our past. When we lose an extraordinary building like this, we lose part of our history, especially Matawan history," Kauffmann said. "If you go down Main Street, you see all the beautiful old houses from all styles and all time periods, but [the Ryer house] is really the crowning jewel on the street."

The house has seen more turbulant times in recent history and is in need of serious refurbishment and renovations, Kauffmann said. Noticeable by a brief once-over from the sidewalk is the flaking paint, deteriorating window frames and torn curtains. Multiple windows have also been boarded up.

The neglect began over five years ago, when the previous owner, Dr. Michael Ambrosio, died and the house passed hands to his wife, Anne. With the owner unable to make payments on the mansion, the property fell into foreclosure and disrepair.

Andrew Scibor, a Matawan resident, purchased the property in April 2007. According to Zillow.com, he paid about $450,000 for the 7-bedroom single-family house.

Scibor hoped to operate an office for several small businesses out of the well-recognized mansion, telling the Independent that this would benefit taxpayers by increasing ratables for the borough.

According to the Nov. 3, 2008 Matawan Borough Planning Board approved minutes, an architect identified as "Mr. Aravantinos" argued on behalf of Scibor, stating under oath that he has experience working with historical properties like this one and that he was confident the building could be modified to meet ADA requirements without changing the historical value.

His application was opposed by multiple residents, according to Kauffmann, who recalled that many of the planning board meetings concerning 226 Main Street were packed.

"From what he wanted to do that building would have looked like a big cardboard box, it would not look anything like it looks now. This is what had everyone so worried," Kauffmann said, noting that the original drawing that was proposed included the removal of the bay windows on the side, however that detail was added back during a later proposal.

Scibor told the Independent in a letter in 2009 that the house was not in good shape on the interior, writing, "All the doors are missing and the Tiffany lights are all gone... The walls and ceilings are crumbling and the floors are buckling due to a lack of heat. The heating system is destroyed due to flooding in the house and the pipes have burst as a result of that lacking system."

His letter came after he lost a two year battle to rezone the building. The application was ultimately denied with a 4-2 vote by the Matawan Borough Unified Planning and Zoning Board.

Scibor did not return phone calls made inquiring about his plans for the property, however he told the Independent in 2009 that, "It is not worth it for me to put $300,000 to $400,000 worth of work into a house that can't be used as an office building."

The large blue mansion still stands on Main Street, and according to Zillow.com it was listed by RE/MAX Central as for sale in May of 2010 for $779,000. In November 2010, the listing price was decreased to $715,000 and in January of 2010 the price was again reduced to $699,000. The site indicates that the listing was removed in February of 2011.

Few changes have been made to the historic home, except in recent weeks the majority of trees and ivy have been torn down. For now, the fate of the Matawan landmark still hangs in the balance. 

Pat January 21, 2012 at 01:09 PM
This house is Matawan's Eiffel Tower. Always admired it's beauty, uniqueness and history. I'd love to see the Historical Society purchase it and open it up for tours. It would be tragic to change it. Why not fundraiser to get this jewel back to what it was meant to be? The town is full of office space. I hope this owner is not allowed to change this home.
Maria Milazzo January 21, 2012 at 04:02 PM
A fundraiser is a great idea, but who will take care of it once it is paid for. that is a lot of money for a house that requires so much, it shouldnt have waited all these years just sitting there to rot. very sad. It will take a very strong individual or town to help this along. Maybe on the next Matawan Day or the Anniversary of the Shark Attack day we can put a booth in front of the house with some sort of activities. Actually I was thinking of putting a bunch of easels in front of the gate and have my students paint parts of it. I might just do that still. I am not knowledgable of how to help, but I would if someone led me the right way.
Tony Tomasetti January 21, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I would take the house off of the owners hands for $250,000...because of all of the work that the home needs inside and out thats about all I think it is worth. I can be contacted at Tonys 'Traditional' Barber Shop @ 117 Main St. Matawan (732) 566-2212
Herky January 21, 2012 at 11:20 PM
If I were the owner and get the Sh--t the town has given him, I would level it and let the a-oles in the Historical Society take the blame
Barzillai January 22, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Historic preservation status is a nice idea in theory, but, oddly enough, it would make renovations to the building even more expensive and difficult. The building might be worth three-quarters of a million dollars in pristine condition but not as it currently stands, so I'm unclear why it is hovering in that price range. Citizens are right to fight development that would ruin the visage of this historic home, but will that protect the building in the end? I worry that the ultimate outcome may already be written in the stars. Most likely the building will simply languish until it is beyond repair and a new office building will go up. Or, if anyone's in a hurry, more unsavory options might be considered to get out from under. This is New Jersey, after all. Ah, Main Street can't get a break.
Herky January 22, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Histrocial Society can't afford to paint or maintain the Borroughs mansion let alone buy this house , say bye bye to this house because of stubborn people in Matawan.
Betty Kauffmann January 22, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I am going to have to respond to Herky's crude boorish comments. The Burroughs mansion is owned by the Boro of Matawan, NOT the Historical Society. The Society only maintains the museum within. There have been issues dating back about ten years regarding lead abatement in the old paint on the structure which has led to this project being held up all these years. The Sites Commission has been planning with a local contractor to get the job done this summer. This house was owned, maintained, and lived in by private owners for 130 years; it can be done again if it was advertised in the right kind of markets. So when the owner of such a property refuses to do this - oh well. Talk about stubborn.
AL January 31, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I first saw the structure known as "the blue house" back in 1994 when I came to visit friends who had just bought a house in Old Bridge. I drove down Main St, and like many others since, slammed on my brakes to marvel at the sight of the mansion as it sat back from the road in all its majesty. I pulled over and just stared and every visit since, I did the same, thinking maybe some day I would own this architectual masterpiece. When it finally did come up for sale , I came from NY to the open house. The originality of the interior with it's mostly unaltered floor plan was what impressed me most. A lot of the original elements were still there, from the face nailed oak floors to the lock on the front door. The double arched black walnut doors to the main room and the etched glass double entrance doors, all gone now. I spent a few hours in the house and before leaving made an offer. The realtor wouldn't even consider it and as it turned out it wasn't much lower than the final sale price to someone who had other intentions. I have followed the decline of the house since and I am so disgusted by the lack of the town from doing anything to stop what it appears to be the end of what IS the defining representation of Matawan. When I mention to anybody that I am going to the area , nine out of ten times they mention the "blue house". Once it's gone there will be no reason for me and others to take the road through your town and spend money. Have a happy shark day.
Ed King February 07, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Matawan has to enact an historic preservation ordinance. Nomination to the National Register of Historic places will accomplish nothing other than to protect it from governmental entities. Freehold Borough learned that lesson with the great house on South St. that was demolished and replaced with a horrendous commercial building. Now Freehold has an ordinance but it only protects buildings in their commercial district, not private homes. Indeed this blue house is the most spectacular structure in Matawan next to the Boroughs Mansion.
Herky February 07, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Homes on Broad Street in Matawan ,built in the late 1800's are" NOT" in the historical district of MATAWAN, But homes built in the 1960's ARE.. This is how your Historical Scoiety opperates. So why support such narrow minded individuals
Maria February 19, 2012 at 02:23 AM
This blue house is not even in the downtown preservation or in the historical society ?? I wonder why such a beautiful old home !! Who could afford such a big home it is 6,700 square feet ! I think it's a great idea to make this blue house into an office building !the ratables would go up in the town ,,the town is not doing well at all if anyone has noticed! The house was on the market Betty everyone who looked at it said it needs a lot of work ! People today are barely making it! I don't think this guy is stubborn ,,I think he's pretty smart !! He's trying to save this house from being taking down !! I think that could happen look at how much time this house has been sitting and rotting away !! It will probably be condemned soon if nothing done soon! I hope the town helps this guy out!!
Terri February 21, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I think Betty Kauffman should purchase the home from Andrew Scibor,after reading the article in patch ! She can restore it ,,so when everybody drives by they can appreciate the house!
Tony Tomasetti February 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Matawan and all of it's residents, should do whatever it takes to save this home from becoming anything other than a private residence. I don't have a definite plan to come up with the money, but I think that between everyone in town and the people on the Planning Board, it can be done. It would be well worth it. There is no doubt at all that the site of the mansion is associated with Matawan and should always be.

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