(Editor's note: The following is an essay by Auburn High School student Morgan McIlvain submitted for the Save Our Schine group's scholarship essay contest. The guideline for the contest was to write an essay of 500 words or less answering why the Auburn Schine Theater should be saved. Seven students applied, and the entries were judged by Save Our Schine members Arlene Ryan, Diane Taylor and Laurel Auchampaugh. McIlvain's was selected as the winner, and she was recognized at a June 2 award ceremony at Auburn High School. Her essay has been reprinted as written.)
Older buildings and artifacts are not only interesting to look at, but are windows into the past. For example, looking at the home of William H. Seward gives viewers the opportunity to mentally take themselves out of the present and they are able to put themselves in the world of Seward himself. By closing down, or ridding of physical elements of the past, (such as books or buildings), we not only ridding of the element physically, but we are ridding of a piece of history. Auburn’s Schine Theater is an example of an important piece of history that needs to be preserved. Destroying the Schine Theater is not clearing away an “old building,” but it is tearing down an important and interesting part of our history.
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I suppose when many people are told that the Schine Theater could be destroyed, many people do not think much of it. Perhaps others that do not know anything about The Schine Theater just believe that it is only an old building that takes up space, so getting rid of the building is not a problem. In all honesty, I personally did not know much about The Schine Theater , except that I passed it almost everyday when I wanted to drive through downtown Auburn to go to a local restaurant or go the Auburn Public Theater. After doing some research, I was surprised to learn about the history behind Auburn’s Schine Theater. I learned that the historical Schine Theater was built in 1938, and is considered the “jewel” in the Louis and Myer Schine’s Empire of cinemas. Its arts deco style of architecture was built by John Eberson and features a 2,000 seat auditorium. When I now look at the theater, I see a lit up marquee with people lined up outside the ticket booth anxiously awaiting to enter. I can hear the murmur of people as they enter the building (all excited to see a new film), and I can smell the concessions being sold for only a few pennies. These mental images will disappear if the theater disappears. The picture of a busy downtown Auburn during the 1930’s will be erased from peoples minds if The Schine Theater is gone. Our children will grow up unknowing that Auburn once held a theater that hundreds of people fled to for a night outing if the theater disappears. The Schine Theater needs to be saved or the memory in the minds of local Auburnians could be erased forever, and future generations will never see parts of their towns past. History is not something we should destroy, but something that should be preserved so future generations can have an insight on the world before them.
Now that I have learned what the Schine Theater once was, my perspective on the theater has changed. I now see that the theater is something that cannot be destroyed but needs to be saved. The Schine Theater’s history is not only interesting, but it makes Auburn a place that holds historical importance. Auburn is a place of rich history, ranging from the Tubman house, the Case Mansion, The Seward House, and The Schine Theater. These elements (and more) give people a perspective on what Auburn was, and the impact that these places had on Auburn’s present and future. If we were to get rid of one of Auburn’s historic buildings, we are (in a way) getting rid of a part of history that makes Auburn unique. In many cases, people learn about history orally, not physically. However, places like The Schine, is physical example of history that people can see with their own eyes. Even though the building may look old, the building holds memories and a history of a whole different world that people today do not know about. The Schine Theater is a timeless part of our history, and therefore needs to be saved.