Sunday, November 20, 2022

Banking a showcase

The sale of The Hellman Heller Mansion in San Francisco


For several years, I enjoyed annual trips to California for San Francisco’s International Film Festival. On my visits I stayed in a tower in one of the smartest addresses, Pacific Heights. The area is home to the city’s elite, the most famous being the author Danielle Steel, and the 1990 thriller Pacific Heights, directed by John Schlessinger CBE and starring Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine and Michael Keaton, was also set there.



During my visits I regularly marveled at the architecture of this wealthy neighbourhood. One building that I found especially striking was a mansion one block north of Lafayette Park at 2020 Jackson Street. An advertisement for this historic home caught my eye this morning as it is now for sale through agents Coldwell Banker.



The Hellman Heller Mansion, 2020 Jackson Street, Pacific Heights, San Francisco, CA 94109


The 11,500 “single family residence” consists of a grand reception hall, living room, salon and catering kitchen on the ground floor. Below this is an informal dining kitchen, baking kitchen, wine cellar, au-pair’s bedroom suite and a large garage. The first floor comprises of a master bedroom suite of bedroom, dressing room, walk-in-closet, terrace and his and her bathrooms, as well as an office and an additional bedroom. Four more bedrooms and 3 further bathrooms are located on the floor above along with a media room. Outside space, with panoramic views towards Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, is provided in the form of a lower level garden area and a ground floor terrace.


The Hellman Heller Mansion's Grand Reception Hallway
The house's impressive staircase
The Formal Dining Room


Constructed in 1902 as a wedding gift from Wells Fargo Bank president Isaias Hellman (1842 – 1920) to his daughter Clara Hellman (1878 – 1959) on her marriage to a prominent lawyer named Emanuel S. Heller (1865 – 1926), 2020 Jackson Street is a mansion in the Louis XVI I style. The property cost some $45,000 to build and was designed by a well-known Bay Area architect named Julius E. Krafft, who had emigrated from Germany in 1872. Many original features survive to this day, amongst them mahogany paneling, herringbone wooden floors and a double-curved grand staircase.


2020 Jackson Street pictured shortly after the Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank took occupancy in 1906

In 1906, the devastating earthquake and subsequent fires that hit San Francisco killed circa 3,500 people and caused some $400,000,000 in damage to the city. The Hellman Heller mansion, partly due to being situated on the strong bedrock of Pacific Heights and partly due to Krafft’s design, survived intact. For a period it became the temporary headquarters of the Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank, the Union Trust Company and also the offices of Heller’s own law firm, Heller Powers & Ehrman.


It is said that this group of business leaders were squeezed into one room with an adjoining water closet. Whilst conducting the mammoth task of clarifying deeds and dealing with insurance claims, they had nowhere other than a tiny bathroom in which to conduct confidential conversations.


Emanuel Heller (second left) pictured with his wife Clara (front right) and his father-in-law Iasais Wolf Hellman and sister-in-law Frances Hellman

In later years, Heller’s company evolved and became known just as Heller Ehrman. The prospering organisation negotiated the finance for the Bay Bridge, established the consortium that built the Hoover Dam and took Levi Strauss & Co. public and then private again. Heller Ehrman LLP, which grew to employ more than 730 attorneys in 15 offices in the United States, Europe and Asisa, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008.


The Hellman Hellers used 2020 Jackson Street to hold many glittering functions even as they grew into their dotage. The most lavish came in 1945 when the main reception was held in the house for the United Nations Conference on International Organisation. At the conference, the 50 representatives drew up the United Nations Charter.


After Clara Hellman Heller, who was also the first woman to sit on Wells Fargo’s board of directors, died, 2020 Jackson Street passed to various subsequent owners. It became publicly prominent once more when it was chosen in 1991 as the San Francisco Designer Showcase home. This year, 21 years later, that honour has been bestowed upon the building again.


A terrace at 2020 Jackson Street
The superb views from the property towards Alcatraz

Established 35 years ago, I recall friends speaking of the San Francisco Designer Showcase with great enthusiasm and at 2020 Jackson Street, over 30 designers have been given space to get creative. The result includes rooms such as “The Gentleman’s Study” by Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design, a “Telephone Room” by Robert Brill Design and “The Press Room” by Lisa Baskamis Interior Design. Even the lift has had a makeover courtesy of Lawanna Cathleen Design.


Conceived to raise funds to aid students at San Francisco University High School’s, the annual event has raised nearly $12,000,000 to date. Running from 28th April to 28th May 2012, general admission tickets are priced at $30.  A gala night, with tickets at $175 each, is to be held to mark the opening night on Friday 27th April.


Danielle Steele’s 55-room white limestone home, The Spreckels Mansion, built in 1913 for the bride of the sugar heir Adolph Spreckels, is nearby at 2080 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

The Hellman Heller residence is said to have cost ten times average construction costs when it was built in 1902. Today it is for sale at $17,500,000, a reduction of some $2,500,000 on the asking price of what it was launched onto the market for in 2011.


Perhaps, indeed, participation in the 2012 San Francisco Decorator Showcase will result in 2020 Jackson Street’s owners banking a sale for this truly spectacular home.


For more information on The Hellman Heller Mansion, contact either Dona Crowder of TRI Coldwell Banker on +1 415 229 1399 or email [email protected] or Clark Johnson of Coldwell Banker on +1 925 831 3332 or email [email protected]. For details, go to:


For details of the 2012 San Francisco Decorator Showcase at The Hellman Heller Mansion, go to: Contact Denise Lamont on +1 415 381 8793 or email [email protected] for more information.

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