Battle For The Big Blue House


Timothy O'Dowd, Writer

Walking down Matawan’s main street it seems like an unremarkable, ordinary suburban main drag, except for one lot. Lying on the later half of the street an odd yet beautiful building sticks out from the surrounding American suburbia, 226 Main Street. 

Referred to as the “Big Blue House” by most locals, the house is a sky blue three story Victorian style house, encompassed by a metal and brick fence. The home was specifically built with French Second Empire architecture in mind; it is one of the only two homes of this style in New Jersey. 

The most remarkable feature of the house is not its beauty, but its dilapidated state. Windows broken and boarded up, paint flaking off the exterior, a ruined interior, neglected infrastructure; the house has been left to rot. Yet an observant on-looker will see the “NO TRESPASSING” sign hung on the front gate as the home has a private owner. The question arises, why would someone allow such a historic site to become so ramshackle. 

Locals who are in the know are more inclined to call 226 the “Ryer House,” after its builder and first inhabitant David G. Ryer. Ryer was just one of many successors in the Ryer family. Making their fortune from produce trading in New York City, the Ryer’s were one of the most prominent New Jersey families in the 1800s. After inheriting the family business, Ryer moved to Matawan in 1873. He would be an influential figure in Matawan even serving a short stint as mayor.

The Shipping Label of Ryer’s Company

In 1873 Ryer used his fortune to build the illustrious home we now know today. The style of the house was quite fashionable in Ryer’s time, but turned out to be just a flash in the pan in American architecture, making it quite the rare building. Ryer would live in the house until his death in 1899. 

The house was first passed to Ryer’s widow and then a number of private occupants in the years to come. The main street mansion continued to be occupied until 2007, with its purchase by a new owner, Andrew Scibor. At this point the home was in desperate need of renovations to be considered livable again, but the new owner had a surprising plan.

Scibor initially intended to turn the historic home into offices, renovating the space to fit this new purpose. His plan faced incredible opposition though, local historians didn’t want to see the house go. 

Organizations like PerseveNJ, the Historic Sites Commission, and the Matawan Historical Society fought desperately to keep the home in its original state. Sending letters to local authorities and even attempting to get the mansion listed on the National Registry for Historic Buildings. Historians efforts ultimately succeeded, the borough rejected the plan in 2009. 

The house was left in limbo, unattended too until 2019 when negotiations began to reemerge. Scibor proposed to convert the house into 8 new apartments, retrofitting the interior for this purpose but maintaining the exterior’s original Victorian look. He branded this compromise as the last straw, if Matawan didn’t agree to his plan then he would demolish the house outright. Despite some historians and civil engineers persisting gripes, Matawan agreed to go through with the plan.

The compromise is seen by most locals as a win-win scenario, finally renovating the Ryer House while giving it a new purpose. But as any passersby can see, no work has begun on renovating the house yet. With both the Borough and Scibor silent, residents are left in the dark on why the big blue house is still in ruin.