Anyone who has traveled through the "Gateway to the Shore" has seen first hand Aberdeen-Matawan's newest station building and has admired the .
They have probably also noticed two abandoned buildings resting on the other side of the tracks. One white, with very little flourish and one green, with a historic appearance.
The original building, now a National Register of Historic Places landmark, was opened in 1875 as a temporary station, according to the book, Images of America: Around Matawan and Aberdeen by Helen Henderson. It was the first station built on the line and was estimated to cost between $4,000 and $6,000 at that time in history.
“The railroad was initially supposed to be routed more to the north, closer to the bay,” said Montfort. “But Matawan had more power and money at the time and got it re-routed through Matawan."
Montfort recalls using the old train station building when he first came to Matawan in 1977.
"The old train station had two buildings, the ticket office and a freight building,” Montfort said.
However, after over eighty years of usage, the building was in need of costly repairs and improvements. New Jersey Transit opted to close the original station in 1982, which was still classified as a temporary station, according to Around Matawan and Aberdeen. NJ Transit created the second, white station in its place, also labeled for temporary use, Montfort said.
Montfort speculates that NJ Transit wanted to move the station to the opposite side of the tracks in order to accomodate New York City commuters during rush hour, rather than pay to renovate the original station.
“I believe they wanted to get the ticket counter on the northbound side of the tracks to facilitate morning rush hours and minimize people crossing when in a hurry or late to buy a ticket and then have to cross the tracks,” Montfort said.
But when the original structure closed their doors, they were not closed permanently. It has housed several local businesses, including an engineering firm and a snack bar. Eventually, however, the building was deemed unsafe and has remained shut ever since.
According to Montfort, past plans for the redevelopment of a transit village included revitalizing and preserving the station for historical purposes. The transit village project aas been tied up in litigation for years and and Matawan are both just restarting the project from the beginning.
“The RFP (request for proposal) for consultants to develop plans included a requirement to save the old station and to incorporate it into their plans. Unfortunately, due to fighting consultants between Matawan and Aberdeen and long lawsuits, nothing has really happened," adds Montfort. He has little faith that with the economy being where it is, that the redevelopment project will be seen through to completion.
According to Montfort, NJ Transit paid little attention to the historic landmark until recent years.
“The old train station, for many years, was not maintained by NJ Transit and it suffered significant deterioration. Finally, a few years ago, the State Preservation Office pressured NJ Transit to stabilize the building. The roof was repaired, all of the canopies were removed from the building and the building was painted as you see it today," Montfort said. "That was a major accomplishment and improvement to the building. More restoration is promised, I believe, subject to funds becoming available. At least the building was saved.”
The white building, which closed after the new station was built, was used by the Borough to manage parking, in addition to doctor's office. Those tenants did not stay long, according to Montfort, and the building now lays dormant.