Editor's note: The following essay by Auburn High School senior Michael Schmid — reprinted as submitted — was the winning entry in a contest held by the Citizens for Schine and the Betterment of Downtown Auburn (Save Our Schine) group. Arlene Ryan, treasurer of the group, had this to say at the award presentation June 3: "This scholarship is being presented as a newcomer to this year's award list. It is not known at this time if it will be continued in the future due to funding. Its purpose is to promote awareness of the need to restore the Schine building and the applicants were asked to write an essay stating their reasons for bringing this 76-year-old building back to life. Selecting a single winner was difficult and each entry was given a great deal of consideration from the information provided."
Auburn is a city that is known for revering its rich history. From the Seward House to the Tubman Home to Willard Chapel, Auburnians are enthusiastic to display its proud landmarks. However, the Schine Theater, a tribute to the glory days of the cinema, remains in the background of Auburn's historical preservation movement.
Many of the historically significant buildings, including some of the iconic old factories, around Auburn are not standing today and that is why it is of extreme importance to preserve the buildings that are left. Fires have decimated many buildings around Auburn, robbing the city of some of its most important historical buildings. Many other vintage buildings in Auburn were knocked down in the name of Urban Renewal that added modernity to the city but sacrificed Auburn's unique character.
Considering what the city has lost it is critical to honor the past with the wonderful historical sites that Auburn has to offer. The city takes pride in displaying the Tubman Home and the Seward House just down the road from the Schine Theater. Those two sites have become synonymous with the city of Auburn and have drawn so much attention, while the Schine Theater sits down the street unnoticed. The classic art deco architecture of the Schine Theater is remarkable. Just as people have fought in the past to preserve the Tiffany glass in the Willard Memorial Chapel, an effort should be made to preserve the pre-World War II art deco style.
There are few things more closely associated with the middle of the twentieth century than the film industry. The Schine Theater's opening in 1938 corresponded with a golden age of the theater. Incredible actors such as Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum graced the Schine Theater screen with the presence and the talent that only their era of film could produce. The heyday of the local movie theater is a uniquely American symbol that immediately harkens people back to the mid-twentieth century. Going out to the movie theater was a highly anticipated event, especially for children, and it was a bonding event for the whole family. It is crucial that the link to that period of history remains intact for Auburn's future.
The golden age of Hollywood was a very important aspect of American culture, one that still resonates with people today. The legendary actors and films that graced the screen in the Schine Theater left a lasting impression on the Auburnians of that era. Just like every other important part of a city's past, this aspect of Auburn's culture needs to live on so that future generations can feel the same connection with that time period of Auburn history. With its cultural significance and its architectural uniqueness, the Schine Theater is a part of the identity and the ancestry of Auburn and it must be preserved.
Michael Schmid is a 2014 graduate of Auburn High School.