Features ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Haunted no more

Posted on February 17, 2012 by Sonoma Valley Sun

It stood empty and neglected for decades, boarded-up and overgrown, a decrepit mansion with a looming, foreboding presence. Too gloomy even for the Addams Family or Norman Bates’ mother.

No wonder the 131 Fourth St. E. became known as the Haunted House.

It was so spooky only the most daring thrill seekers, usually tipsy teenagers, would dare enter. But now the grounds are clean and a major renovation is underway, as Sonoma architect Robert Baumann oversees the restoration of “a beautiful old Craftsman home from a bygone era.”

The owner of three adjacent properties, Bill Jasper, bought it last fall for $1.497 million. His intention is to restore the house following state historical guidelines so it will look as it did in its heyday, right down to the circular driveway and two working stone fountains.

Baumann said the stately mansion started as a humble one-story structure, probably in 1907. Over the years, additions were made (not many to code), so when crews began removing the plaster, they found a jumbled patchwork of missing joints and inadequate frames. “Swiss cheese,” Baumann called it. “History revealing itself.”

It was a wonder the old gal was still standing. “There’s a lot of structural work ahead to make it safe to live in,” the architect said. Ultimately, restored to historical accuracy, including covered porches, “it’s going to look new and very appealing.”

The job has entailed cleaning up debris left behind by generations of illicit partyers (you know who you are) and removing several gigantic beehives and one varmint skull from the walls. As of yet, no ghosts or spirits have revealed themselves.

With all the plans and permits now in place, construction is scheduled to begin May 1.

Its rightful name is the Martelli House, but for now, Baumann admits, “It does look like a classic haunted house.”

This digital rendering shows how the house will look when completed.
Architect Robert Baumann and owner Bill Jasper have a big job ahead.

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