181 Buena Vista Avenue East (www.SocketSite.com)

Former United States Ambassador James Hormel quietly sold his 8,000 square foot San Francisco mansion at 181 Buena Vista Avenue East for $7,200,000 early last year.

While Hormel extensively remodeled and expanded the Buena Vista mansion which sits on a massive 13,555 square foot lot in the late 1980’s, the home is now undergoing a complete interior transformation led by Butler Armsden Architects.

181 Buena Vista Avenue East Aerial

And while the cost of the renovation per the building permits totals $775,000, rumor has it that the budget for the project is actually closer to $4 million, a budget which might include the 24 hour security detail that has been trying to keep the renovation under wraps.

With respect to the new owner of 181 Buena Vista Avenue East, according to our sources that would be the co-founder of Pivotal Labs which was acquired by EMC in an all cash deal two months before the pad was purchased in an all cash deal as well.

23 thoughts on “An Eleven Million Dollar Mansion Is Under Wraps Above The Haight”
  1. Oh my god, that’s my lottery house! I’ve admired it for years and always said it would be the house I bought if I ever won the lottery. Even my friends refer to it as the lottery house. It’s on a huge lot with fantastic views, and a classic San Francisco victorian that doesn’t appear to have been ruined/Dwellified. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  2. What does it mean to have a security detail to “keep the renovation under wraps”? Does that mean they’re trying to do work beyond scope of permits? What is the purpose, or what are you implying? I don’t get it.

  3. The security is likely to keep thieves from stealing expensive interior/exterior finishes… Could be electronics, copper, or maybe they’re installing platinum toilets.

  4. Ah, okay, I buy that. The way they phrased it was making it sound like the security is to cover up nefarious purposes.

  5. The history of this house is quite remarkable. Until Jim Hormel bought the home, it had been owned and lived in by one family since built. The matriarch, elderly and nearly bed bound, lived in the home by herself, attended to by her doctor (who visited her regularly), her gardener and her dog. Her doctor visited one day, to find her murdered in her bed, but no sign of break in. The gardener was arrested and released, and the murder remained unsolved until her lawyer began getting threatening correspondence from the old lady’s son who lived in the Mid West. The son wanted a fast settlement of the estate, as he was in debt, I recall due to gambling. A little research discovered that the son had flown in and out of San Francisco the day of her death. Murder solved.

    1. Ken…..yes, my grandmother was murdered, but 99% of your story in false. Best to do some real fact checking before writing about real people!!

  6. The security is likely to keep thieves from stealing expensive interior/exterior finishes…could be electronics, copper, or maybe they’re installing platinum toilets.

    And the thing is, it isn’t at all uncommon for 24 hour security detail(s) to be hired.
    I’ve never understood this. Is logistics so ‘king difficult in residential (light) construction (due to contractors “juggling” jobs, perhaps?) that it’s less expensive to pay people to guard the job site round the clock for week or months on end rather than arrange for materials to arrive on the construction site just before they’re needed?
    Supply chain management. It’s not just for manufacturing any more. Residential construction should join the rest of us in the 21st century.

    1. A few years back, I was engaged to redesign a building that had been damaged by fire. Before anyone had thought about security, all the copper had gone missing – wiring, piping, everything.

  7. @Brahma: The security makes sense if the house can’t be securely locked up at night- and may well have been prompted by an incident early in construction.
    As for “supply chain management” the theft of construction materials can cause serious delays if they can’t be quickly replaced, making the expense of security a small part of the overall cost– and possibly paid for by the GC if there are completion bonuses (or penalties) at stake.

  8. That’s an incredible piece of property. I’ve passed by the house many times but had no idea the house and yard were so massive. Considering the buyer, I doubt the interior will remain Victorian.

  9. I live down the street.
    The guard is not hiding anything. It’s almost certainly an insurance requirement. Top-tier carriers such as Chubb won’t insure a renovation on this level without 24 hour protection. It’s less about theft than it is about liability if someone goes inside and gets hurt.

  10. Hey @Ken, got anymore details on that story? I’ve actually heard it before in several variations — including shooting on the stair case, or bludgeoning in the library. I did a web search but haven’t found anything.

  11. I went thru the house when it was for sale and the detail is off the charts, truly a beautiful home, I HOPE they arent gutting it all out to make it into a hip modern pad! That would be a crime!! It had amazing parquet floors, woodwork etc. A GEM!

  12. The parquet floors were NOT amazing, they were beat up, non-original and in poor shape. The carpet upstairs was gross, as was the stained and peeling wallpaper everywhere. The layout consisted of many small, broken up rooms, two narrow dangerous staircases, and an unfinished attic.
    Things are not antiques, or valuable, just because they’re old. Sometimes they’re just old.

    1. Mrs. L, you exaggerate. All the wood details were original, fully restored, including the parquet floors and all the inlay, paneling, and millwork.

      It was an exhaustive process to restore the home between 1986 and 1991. There was ONE room that had spots on the carpet because a sick, elderly rescue cat lived there, and died in the remaining months before the home was handed to the next owner.

      The attic was the only unfinished space in the entire home, and only because it was used specifically for what an attic is used for: storage. The house and grounds very well-maintained throughout.

  13. I grew up just four houses down from her backyard on Alpine and can tell you that the lady was very nice and always shared the delicious plums from her plum trees …..simple, but true trivia

  14. All of this is totally untrue. Wonder where this person ever got hold of a weird story like this.

    My Mother was never bed-ridden. Her cleaning woman discovered her and immediately called me. I am her eldest daughter so am aware of all the circumstances. People should not post false information like this.

    1. Well, this is good to know Elita. I was a bit concerned. People just love to talk and tell stories…

      It is a beautiful home. No wonder you talk of it so fondly. Simply a one of a kind.

  15. The renovation of this home took away the loveliness of the home inside and out. A lot of money was spent, but the soul is gone. The woman who lives there is really nasty in my experience. A number of the neighbors mourn the loss of a beautiful home and a civil neighbor.

    1. Oh neighborhood drama! We know who’s bitter about not getting invited to the tea parties there.

      What’s wrong with the people who live there? I live in the neighborhood and they seem nice. They’ve lived in the neighborhood a long time, even before they bought this house.

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