Spooky Historic House in Matawan Will Be Turned into Apartments

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An 1873 Victorian house on Main Street in Matawan is set to be turned into eight apartments, with its owner promising to preserve the exterior. Some are skeptical. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

A spooky looking 1873 house on Main Street in Matawan, said to be one of only two in New Jersey of its type, is set to be turned into eight apartments –- but hopefully preserved at the same time — now that officials have reached a compromise with the private owner.

Residents say they are cautiously optimistic that the exterior will be preserved.


The house, known in the neighborhood as the “Ryer House,” or “Big Blue House,” was built in 1873 by David Ryer, a onetime mayor of Matawan and a produce merchant from a family of prominent area businessmen and farmers.

The house is, according to the nonprofit group Preservation New Jersey, “a fine example of the [French] Second Empire style, featuring characteristic details such as a Mansard roof, a central tower, an elaborate front porch, ornate molded cornices, and bay windows.”


The Historic Sites Commission in Matawan wrote a letter to the borough’s Planning/Zoning board on February 25 saying, “The Ryer House, 226 Main Street…is one of only two such homes left in New Jersey. The other example is in the historic town of Cape May.”

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The fate of the historic Ryer House on Main Street in Matawan, near the crux of several highways from the Shore to New York, has been hotly debated for years. Pictured: The rear of the house. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Current owner Andrew Scibor bought the house for $450,000 in 2007, a few years after longtime owner Dr. Michael Ambrosio passed away. Scibor applied to the township to turn it into offices but was turned down in 2009, as residents feared losing the home’s historic features.

The house sat in limbo while local preservationists attempted to get it added to the National Registry of Historic Sites. Homes may be added because of historical architecture, connection to historical events and people, and age.

This past March, Scibor was quoted as saying in local media that he might have to demolish the house if the town failed to approve his new plan to turn it into eight apartments.

Residents hotly debated the matter in numerous Facebook groups for Matawan issues.

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The Victorian “Big Blue House” in Matawan has fallen into disrepair over the years, but its current owner says he will preserve the exterior as he turns it into eight apartments. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

On April 1, the board granted Scibor a use variance so that he can convert the structure to eight small apartments, including two in the basement.

“The house can now be restored,” Scibor was quoted as saying in April. “This is a win-win for the town and for the people who can use it and appreciate it.”

Residents had mixed feelings. “I think it’s a great compromise,” said a woman on the Matawan Historical Society Facebook page. “I would just hate for the apartments to be ‘luxury.’ ”

“They are making this gorgeous piece of history into apartments?” posted another. “That stinks.”

This month, residents said they hadn’t seen much work on the house yet.

Kurtis Roinestad, the chairman of the Historic Sites Commission, said by phone in mid-October that he hopes Scibor keeps the exterior intact but is watching carefully.

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The “Big Blue House,” looking out on Main Street in Matawan. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

“My sentiment from the beginning, and I spoke at the planning and zoning board about the caution of this,” he said, “is, we have over 300 historical houses over 100 years old [in Matawan]. That particular property is not the oldest house in town, but it’s probably the most recognizable house in town. It’s a Queen Anne-style house with a gingerbread trim. The board approved the project under the premise that the exterior of property will remain with its façade. My nervousness [about it] is because I don’t see how it’s feasible to cut up a one-family house into eight apartments. I’ve seen the plans; I’ve seen the layout. It’s going to be precarious.”

He said the apartments may be as small as 600 square feet. He said that he’s met the owner several times and is hopeful, but “My concern is whether he comes back to the town and says, ‘Hey, guys, I thought I could do this but I can’t, so I’m going to have to throw up vinyl siding…and by the way I have to modify 20 other things to make this work.’ ”

“My biggest concern is that he does what he said he’s doing to do,” Roinestad said. “If he does that, then I’m all for it. You’re basically restoring a historic house and making it functional.”

The Central Jersey house is a one-mile walk from the Matawan Train Station, a few blocks from the border with Aberdeen, and near several major highways that run from the shore toward New York.

“I would like to see the outside of the building and surrounding property brought back to something that looks as close to the original as possible,” said Justin Dapolito of the Historic Sites Commission this month. “I grew up in this town, my parents grew up in this town; I remember seeing that house as a kid. It’s also one of the only examples of its type left in New Jersey. It would be nice to see it historically correct.”

The Historic Sites Commission oversees several other old houses within the borough. Fans of historic homes in that area can take the “Haunted Matawan Trolley Tours” on October 26. More information on that event is available here.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Why is Matawan allowing this. I know Andy the owner of the house. He couldn’t get his way so he’s going to try something else. He’s absolutely ridiculous. Apartments?! Really? Watch he’ll try to tear it down. It should remain they way it is. It needs work yes but not apartments. It should be left alone. Town people think real hard.

    • at lest it will be lived in an have another life. It is a beautiful house and deserves not to just be vacant and be able to have families live in it . life goes on hopefully in a good way

  2. He’s done nothing to restore the grand home since he bought it. Now, all of a sudden he’s got the money to build eight apartments in it? Really?
    I can only imagine the added traffic to the already crowded narrow street. It’s very disheartening to see this historic, architectural masterpiece allowed to be erased. These situations NEVER end pleasantly.

  3. 16 years ago this New Yorker stumbled across historical Matawan and because of the Blue house and others like it, decided he wanted him and his family to live here. When Andy told me he bought it and about his plans to restore it, and in such historical detail, I was elated. Subsequently I attended a council meeting at which the house was a subject for discussion and I heard neighbors say, “We want a family to buy it and live there.” Speaking as a local realtor, I said, “No one with that kind of money is going to live in Matawan on a main street. None of us will ever see the inside so as long as the outside is preserved, what more could we as for? Let’s save it from the wrecking ball.” According to my knowledge, you can’t force a homeowner to make a home a landmark. You can make a neighborhood a landmark but I doubt if our Main St., with all the historical structures we have already lost and all the commercial properties that have undergone non historical changes, would qualify. So, let’s embrace Andy and hope that he will be true to his promise and that Matawan will assist in making that happen. Remember, a town and its rules and how they are enforced dictate whether or not Andy will be able to save this magnificent home and do it justice. I have heard from historians that it is the finest example of French Empire architecture in Monmouth County and it would be a tragedy for our “historical” town to lose it. Andy please keep it BLUE.

  4. This landmark to a time gone bye should take a note from freehold and be allowed to be a professional building
    There seems to be space for ample parking and should not impact traffic patterns
    Any town board that voted against this treasure to be a professional building , and voted yes to apartments that in my estimation is an unlikely success both financially and logistically

  5. Actually, I wanted to buy the house in 2010 to keep as a private residence. They wouldn’t even show me the house. I am a local business owner with a history of renovating Main Street buildings. The realtor had me send over money market and bank statements to prove I had money- but they still wouldn’t show the house. They called me back YEARS later to see if I was still interested- but by then my kids were settled into their schools.

    What a shame.

  6. I am happy i was given the opportunity to tour this home in the 90s with a realtor and i remember the beautiful woodwork and historic charm. I was fascinated at its beauty. I feel honored now after reading the comments that i got apparently a rare opportunity to see this home in its original form

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