The Serventi Villa

by Robin Stater    
The Italian Villa - Historic Restoration in Bishop, California

As Mammoth grows to its boundaries and high rises compete with mountain peaks for the skyline, Bishop, California, just 40 miles away, remains a hometown that has a simple charm and the Eastern Sierra feeling that once drew the pioneer spirit to the mountains. Many of the Mammoth locals are selling their homes and moving to Bishop to keep their dream of the Sierra alive, as well as getting a home at a fraction of the price of their Mammoth home. It’s a boom for the small community of Bishop, as well.

The Serventi Home, on the east side of town in Bishop, was a forgotten location, once so prevalent in the hearts of the Bishop locals, until its recent restoration by Robin Stater, of Sierra Design Studio, Mammoth Lakes.











Built in 1936 by Louis Serventi, an Italian immigrant, the Italian villa was a mismatch for the rural western setting of the 1930’s.

Everyone who has ever passed the home has paused to look and marvel at the wondrous rock wall that surrounds the entire property. Built from mineral specimens collected throughout the mining town of Nevada and Bodie, the wall intrigues the passerby with color and textures of copper, crystals, quartz, marble and “fools gold”.

The spacious yard that has served over the past 7 decades as a gathering place for Bishop locals for music and entertaining by the Serventi’s, has a formal rose garden with over 250 roses. Some of the plants date back to the 1930’s and are rare antique varieties.

The prominate feature is the giant Sequoia and Redwood trees that tower in the center of the yard. Known as the tallest Sequoia in town, the tree was planted in the year 1900, to commerate the birth of the son of the home town doctor at that time, Dr. Dorrance. The doctor built his home on the site in the year 1904. That Victorian was then removed in the 1930’s, but the towering trees remained.

During Restoration
After Restoration, in Snow


Backyard During Restoration
Backyard After Restoration


The formal gardens have been restored and tenderly brought back to their original glory. Trimming, pruning, fertilizing is only the beginning of this magnificent yard's restoration. Next spring, Bishop’s first Garden Tour will feature this special location.

Only one other family after the Serventi's owned the home, so it remained much as it was in the early days.

The renovation has taken about 2 years to complete. As with any home renovation, the surface of a home does not tell the entire story.

The home was listed for sale, noting that it had an “award-winning kitchen”. The missing part was that it was award-winning in the 1930’s!

Kitchen During Restoration


Of course, the vintage plumbing and electrical would need updating, as well as the windows and heating systems.

Once begun, a renovation of an older home takes on a life of its own…unlike new home construction; there are many unknowns that lie beneath the surface. Now with the renovation complete, the home acts like a modern home with thermal windows, recessed lighting, automatic gate openers, automatic sprinklers and a variety of modern conveniences that would surprise the Serventi’s.

To restore a home like this one takes alot of courage and patience. The reward however is unsurpassed, to know that this home was preserved and not given way to the bulldozer, which would make more immediate economic sense, as the zoning would allow fourteen units to be built on the property.

It’s a contribution to the community of Bishop, to enjoy the home and the memory of a once prominent home in the community that is now brought back to its grandeur.

So, as Mammoth moves fast forward into the future, there are moments to remember of the past for locals and visitors alike that soothe the souls of the kindred spirits who pioneered the area. Take a walk down East Line St., Bishop, Calif. USA, to see a little bit of local history revived.

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