On March 18, 2001, The Friends of 1800 wrote to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the letter below in support of saving The New Mission Theater as an irreplacable cultural resource.
We are writing to urge saving the New Mission Theater. The needs of City College are real, but we don't see how destroying a cultural resource facilitates or furthers the purpose of City College as an institution. Describing this issue as a choice between education and preservation may have a rhetorical appeal to some people, but it ignores the other options of having City College use another site, or of using the New Mission Theater as part of their new facility.
Recently world leaders and art institutions criticized the Taliban for destroying part of their own cultural heritage that they didn't understand and didn't like. It is ironic that here in a supposedly enlightened country; we still have to the face the same incomprehension when trying to preserve our own cultural resources. The absolutist argument of financial necessity is not far removed from the argument of theological necessity
When thinking of the New Mission Theater, we ask you to not think of this as one of many Movie Theaters, one much the same and as disposable as the others. We urge you to think of the people who built this theater. The Craftsmen, Carpenters and Plaster workers who practiced crafts which have almost ceased to exist. The New Mission Theater cannot be replaced or reduplicated by the building trades today any more than the statues of the Buddha could. Why would we even think of destroying the irreplaceable high quality work of these anonymous workers and craftsmen?
Architecturally, the New Mission Theater is a magnificent work, the equal of the universally beloved Castro Theater in terms of the lavishness of the interior detail in the auditorium. The original Baroque style of the interior is still largely intact along with the more neoclassical inner lobby. The Art Deco outer lobby is also striking, and the Art Deco sign is a beautiful and rare example of this sort of sign.
This theater is an irreplaceable civic asset. It is a neighborhood landmark in this part of the Mission. It is a reminder of the many movie theaters that once operated on Mission Street. It is part of what gives this area its distinctive character.
The New Mission Theater also has great financial value. The detailing of the interiors and the sign have innate monetary value and would be extremely expensive to reduplicate today. This represents an innate worth that is extremely stupid to destroy. As single screen theaters are rapidly disappearing, we have an opportunity to use these facilities as meeting halls, live theaters and gathering places. If City College refuses to reuse the auditorium, and it were used for theater or dance, the arts groups would not be the only ones to benefit, the neighborhood would benefit by the influx of theatergoers who would spend money in the neighborhood.
In closing we strongly urge you to conserve and reuse the New Mission Theater for the benefit of all San Franciscans, and particularly for the benefit of the Mission neighborhood.
Dennis Richards President,
Friends of 1800 Market