Hot property: Built for a family that never came 

James Hennefer is an engaging and happy-sounding man, with a thriving anti-trust law practice that has brought him before the U.S. Supreme Court, a winemaking hobby and a yen for property improvement. But sadly, his family never got to enjoy a Pacific Heights mansion he renovated for them.

Hennefer, a partner with Hennefer, Finley & Wood LLP, bought the house at 2515 Scott St. in San Francisco in 1999. He intended to make the subdivided mansion back into a massive single-family home for his relations, including his great-aunt in Park Merced and several others who wanted to livein The City, he said. But by the time the renovation was finished this year, several of them had died, and plans changed.

"Three people in 15,000 square feet with 11 fireplaces … it’s too big," said Hennefer, who won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1992 against Eastman Kodak Co., who his clients said would not sell them parts, stymieing their repair businesses.

He achieved excellent results with the renovation, McGuire Real Estate agent Tina Bartlett Hinckley said.

"He has kind of a gusto for things. He’s artistically inclined. … I think he got into the project," she said, adding that the four floors of the house divide nicely into public and family spheres. "If someone entertained formally, you could do that a lot, and not have people invade your private space."

Other features she and Hennefer liked include the large, flat lot with its gardens, lawns, fountains and 100-year-old mayten tree, as well as the house’s history. It was designed by architect Clinton Day and built in 1899 for the Tubb family, a New England trading clan that settled in San Francisco during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. They founded a ship chandlery, a whaling fleet, a rope-cordage mill and other major businesses, and members of the family were active in civic and government life. Their Tubbs Cordage Co. building still exists as part of the Hyde Street Pier Maritime Museum, according to the book "Men of Rope: Being a History of the Tubbs Cordage Company."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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