SF couple set for annual holiday display

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday December 10, 2014
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Tom Taylor sits under the nearly-completed holiday<br>decorations at the home on 21st Street in Dolores Heights that he shares with<br>his husband, Jerry Goldstein. Photo: Rick Gerharter <br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
Tom Taylor sits under the nearly-completed holiday
decorations at the home on 21st Street in Dolores Heights that he shares with
his husband, Jerry Goldstein. Photo: Rick Gerharter 

Every year, the San Francisco hillside home of Dr. Jerome Goldstein and Tom Taylor lights up the neighborhood for the holidays and this year's display is now up for visitors to admire.

The couple, married in 2013 but together since 1972, turns the front yard of their 21st Street home " located on a steep hillside in Dolores Heights, a microhood between Noe Valley and the Castro " into a winter wonderland with wrapped boxes, stuffed animals, and glittering lights, while a 65 foot tall lighted Norfolk Island pine tree is the centerpiece.

Few Bay Area homes are decorated more grandly, and for many, visiting Tom and Jerry's Christmas Tree, as it's become known, is a holiday tradition.

It's estimated that thousands of adults and children come to view the holiday display each year, according to a news release. The men consider it their gift to the city.

Goldstein said that the tree is not a religious symbol.

"We don't include anything that is a reverential reference to a specific religion or belief," he said. "The display offers a significant appeal to the emotions, the senses, and the joy of the holidays."

Taylor, 71, and Goldstein, 73, both long-term HIV survivors, are known for their sense of civic pride. For their October 2013 wedding, the couple closed off the street and had a block party.

Goldstein said that all the ornaments were personally delivered to their home by Santa Claus from the North Pole, who, contrary to popular opinion, is actually located right here in the city. As always, Santa will be at Taylor and Goldstein's house until it's time to take his sleigh into flight to deliver this year's toys.

"We have a live Santa Claus for 10 days until Christmas," Goldstein said, adding that Santa will be on site from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. nightly (The display will be viewable through New Year's Day.)

In addition to the tree and decorations, the display includes trains, moving stuffed animals, and a mini amusement park.

Goldstein offered a little bit about the history of the tree.

"We first did it 26 years ago," he said. "I'm not sure exactly when, it's hard to tell. We had purchased a Norfolk Island pine, about three feet tall. It got bigger and bigger so Tom put it in front of the house. It got so big we started to fool around with it. It grew to 60 feet, people went crazy over it."

Taylor stuck with a theme: the decorations grew at the same rate so the tree would always look as though it was a scale version of a typical six foot Christmas tree. The house vanishes behind the decorations. The garage serves as a sort of fireplace, above which are hung two eight foot high stockings, brimming with gigantic teddy bears.

At the core of the their relationship, the men said, is a freedom to create, think, and envision outside the box of the expected and the norm of the behavior. The Christmas tree is an expression of two men, one a cultural Jew and one with no religious affiliation, to create and grow what was once an indoor plant into a widely acclaimed holiday treat.

The hardest part of the event is "getting the energy to face it every year," Taylor said, adding that work begins around Thanksgiving.

The "elves" who assist with the project are all covered by state worker's compensation insurance, he said, adding that they attach steel beams to the tree to make sure it can hold up decorations through wind and rain.

Goldstein said that people from out of town are among their visitors, as are many from throughout San Francisco.

"Around 10,000 to 20,000 people a year come to see it," he said. "All the cab drivers get an extra tip for taking people up there."

The lighted tree, Goldstein said, stands as a Bay Area option to the iconic tree which stands every year in New York City's Rockefeller Center.

"There's the tree next to Rockefeller Center, then there's the Tom and Jerry Christmas Tree," Goldstein said. "The Tom and Jerry Christmas Tree in San Francisco is dedicated to families, children of all ages, their pets, and anyone who wants to interact in a meaningful way with the holiday season."

The display can be seen on the sidewalk in the front of the house " the men note that the property is not open to the public. Taylor and Goldstein also ask that visitors respect their neighbors and refrain from honking horns. Caroling, reasonable conversations, and photography are allowed. They also note that their block is very steep and people should park at the bottom or top and walk to the tree.


The Tom and Jerry Christmas Tree is located at 3560 21st Street, between Church and Sanchez.