2007-10-04 / Front Page
Boro recognizes old Reading Room site
Was used as the town's unofficial library, and for graduations
Now the site of a deli and residential apartments, few may have realized that the building at 365 Main St. is one of Sayreville's most significant historic landmarks.
But in a ceremony held Sunday at the location, which long ago housed the Sayre & Fisher Reading Room, borough officials and members of the Sayreville Historical Society sought to change that. Also in attendance was Anna M. Aschkenes, executive director of the Middlesex County Cultural Heritage Commission, which gave the town a historical marker for the site. The historical society had applied for the marker due to the building's significance.
"In the absence of a marker, people don't take it seriously," said Carol Kadi of the Sayreville Historical Society. "And with a marker … it's not just old, it's special."
The building, which is occupied by Country Kitchen Deli on the bottom floor and four apartments on the top floor, is owned by Michael and Donna Matrafajlo. The structure dates to 1883, and exhibits the bricks that the Sayre & Fisher Brick Co. sold with a decorative brick and terra cotta design.
Kadi noted that the building is listed on the state and national registers of historic places for its industrial, architectural and social significance.
"It's the only building in town that is on both registers of historic places," Kadi said.
Sayre & Fisher started out as a partnership and eventually was switched over entirely to stockholders as an incorporated business, Kadi said. Its customers ranged from businesses in New York City to wealthy property owners in Newport, R.I., since it could sell bricks in greater quantities than its competitors. At one time, the company manufactured more bricks than any other company in the world.
The Sayre & Fisher Reading Room was on the top floor of the historic Main Street building. The brick company used the space as a conference room where it would lay out charts and make plans for the growing business, Kady said. But it was at one time considered to be Sayreville's unofficial library.
"If some people had a need to look things up, as long as you were on good terms with them, you could use it," Kadi said. "Students could use it. In the early years, there was no Sayreville high school, so you would have to be [enrolled in a school] out of town. You could use their library, so in effect, it was the first Sayreville library."
The bottom floor of the building was used for a number of social events, including basketball games, silent movie viewings and elementary school graduations, she added.
"The museum [that] we have used to be a school," Kadi said, "so when kids graduated, they graduated at that reading room.
"There was no town hall, so if there was a town gathering, it was going to be in that reading room," she added.
The company eventually relocated its offices to New York City and stopped using the Reading Room.
In 1970, the manufacturer ceased production altogether.