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Tom Taylor and Jerry Goldstein, The Tom and Jerry House

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Visiting Information

The Tom and Jerry House holiday display, the preparation for which starts each year before Thanksgiving, is recognized as a public attraction by the City of San Francisco. It is open to the public during the holiday season, until New Year’s Day, and is illuminated each evening from 6 – 10 pm. It is completely visible from the street, but the couple request that visitors do not honk their satisfaction nor park on their block, to avoid inconveniencing their neighbors. They do not accept donations, but instead offer this tree as a gift to all who visit, recognizing the spirit of the holidays and the diversity and beauty offered by living in San Francisco.

About the Artist/Site

Back in 1970, Goldstein, a neurologist, purchased a small living Christmas tree that the couple installed in the living room of their little Victorian gingerbread home for the holidays. They then kept it on as a house plant, but it kept growing, so by 1973 they planted it in their yard.

Around 1987 Goldstein and Taylor decided to use the tree as the center for an exterior holiday display. Taylor, a display artist who has worked for major retail chains and who manages commercial properties, envisioned it as an “average” tree in an “average” home, which would include all kinds of ornaments, rather than featuring a single theme, color, or type. But as the tree grew, the display grew, and now reaches over 65 feet high.

The 21st Street frontage, which is incredibly steep, has presented major technical challenges for the display: structural steel rods are sunk into the concrete retaining walls to support the tree and the increasingly numerous and heavy decorations. A hydraulic boom truck is rented to place the star on top, and some eight to ten “elves” are hired to hang ornaments. Tom has recycled display materials he had used for professional holiday parties, and almost immediately he started including “gift” boxes – trying to recapture the excitement of children as they saw their gift boxes lying tantalizingly under the tree.  Yet because the scale of the gifts need to fit perfectly with the scale of the tree, some of these gift boxes are larger than the children themselves. Empty spots on the trees limbs are filled in with ornaments, red ribbons, and thousands of lights, and, as visitors stop by in awe,  a contracted Santa Claus hands out candy canes. Stockings for Tom and Jerry, hanging over the garage, measure 12 feet high, and share space with giant stuffed animals and all kinds of toys. An oversized model train runs around the tree skirt.

The Tom and Jerry House holiday display, the preparation for which starts each year before Thanksgiving, is recognized as a public attraction by the City of San Francisco; there has been a documentary film made about it, and it receives major publicity each year, including a major article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. It continues to be open to the public during the holiday season, until New Year’s Day, and is illuminated each evening from 6 – 10 pm. It is completely visible from the street, but the couple request that visitors do not honk their satisfaction nor park on their block, to avoid inconveniencing their neighbors. They do not accept donations, but instead offer this tree as a gift to all who visit, recognizing the spirit of the holidays and the diversity and beauty offered by living in San Francisco.

~Jo Farb Hernández

 

Map and site information

3650 21st Street
San Francisco, California, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 37.756611 / -122.429051

Visiting Information

The Tom and Jerry House holiday display, the preparation for which starts each year before Thanksgiving, is recognized as a public attraction by the City of San Francisco. It is open to the public during the holiday season, until New Year’s Day, and is illuminated each evening from 6 – 10 pm. It is completely visible from the street, but the couple request that visitors do not honk their satisfaction nor park on their block, to avoid inconveniencing their neighbors. They do not accept donations, but instead offer this tree as a gift to all who visit, recognizing the spirit of the holidays and the diversity and beauty offered by living in San Francisco.

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