Herhold: Should one of the Winchester domes be saved?
By Scott Herhold | Published by Contra Costa Times
When San Jose’s Century 21 theater opened nearly a half-century ago, the first movie it showed was the comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Last week, the 950-seat theater on Winchester Boulevard was running the Tom Cruise fantasy, “Oblivion.”
The metaphorical distance between those two titles gives you the thumbnail version of what’s happening with the modernistic theaters on Winchester Boulevard, which are looking more doomed than domed these days.
A plan for developing offices and shops on the turf across from Santana Row would mean all but certain demolition of the Century 21, 22 and 23 cinemas, now officially renamed the Winchester theaters.
Arguing that these are iconic buildings, preservationists are now waging a campaign to save at least one of the theaters, which have not quite reached the 50-year-mark for official landmark consideration.
“I’m very concerned that we in San Jose are erasing a very significant period of our history as we demolish so much of the postwar architecture, ” said cultural historian Heather David. “It’s part of our cultural identity.”
I may as well tell you that modernistic ’50s and ’60s architecture is not my passion. The preservationists, however, have a right to make an argument for saving a dome, and the rest of us should listen. I’m going to present this issue as impartially as I can.
The first of the three cinemas, Century 21, opened in late 1963, making use of the “laminated beam” construction technique widely used in churches. It even had a special wraparound projection room for Cinerama movies — though Cinerama movies were not shown there.
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Thanks to THS Member Terry Monohan for the link!