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House a mystery no more

  • The decrepit Sonoma “mystery house” has been renovated by Bill Jasper and a team of professionals (pictured sitting on porch), and is now for sale. The mansion, long boarded up and obscured behind trees before the restoration, was built in 1910 and has not been occupied since 1978. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

For more than 30 years it was Sonoma's “mystery house,” an abandoned bungalow choked behind overgrowth and taken over by wildlife. Vandals helped themselves to interior trim, graffiti artists sprayed the walls and several generations of teenagers snuck in to party.

But what was once one of Sonoma's creepiest houses, ironically neighboring the grand Sebastiani family home on Fourth Street East, has gotten a massive, $2.5 million makeover.

When Bill Jasper in 2006 bought an adjoining property further up the hill with access from Second Street East, he didn't even know the old house was behind him.

Sonoma 'Mystery House'


Eventually, however, the house at 131 Fourth St. E. came on the market after sitting abandoned for some 33 years. Jasper bought it for $1.5 million, mainly with the intent of gaining better access to the flag-shaped lot he owned above it.

A self-described “history buff,” Jasper is the former president and CEO of Dolby Labs, the famed sound engineering and digital entertainment company, and a principal in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Press Democrat. He was also intrigued by the challenge of unraveling the mystery of the house and bringing it back to life.

He put together a triage team that included, among others, Sonoma architect Robert Baumann, Sonoma general contractor Jon Currie and Currie's designer wife, Christine. Their mission? To rescue the once grand address from wrack and ruin while maintaining the historic appearance of the century-old dwelling. Now the brown-shingled, two-story bungalow, perched on a knoll behind original stone pillars and fountains, is one of the most striking houses on the street.

The house was built between 1907 and 1910 by Christian C. Bosse, a German immigrant and merchant in San Francisco who earned his fortune in the late 19th century working for a firm with large plantation interests in Hawaii. Originally it was only a single-story, square bungalow, but Bosse made it beautiful.

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