I read the story in The Tribune on Sunday about the long-shuttered Fox Theatre in Paso Robles. I remember going to the movies there and at the drive-in where the Target complex now sits.
I was intrigued by the idea that maybe something good can come out of the old theater site, anything from a restaurant to even a place for the performing arts.
I love people who think big.
Coincidently, I received an email from Red Heesch, an Atascadero resident, friend, and retired Cal Poly graphic communications professor, who is interested in the fate of the Atascadero Printery that sits at the corner of Olmeda Avenue and West Mall.
He would like to see the structure become a museum — more specifically, a museum that focuses on the printing industry. He envisions something like the “Atascadero Museum of Printing and Communicative Arts.”
The two-story building was seriously damaged in the 2003 San Simeon earthquake. Not long before the earthquake hit, then-owner Kelly Gearhart was trying to revamp the structure for use as a home for the Atascadero Historical Society that would include public meeting rooms upstairs.
Now the building is being held together by very large timbers and structural steel beams. Each end of the building is falling outward.
But back to thinking big.
Heesch envisions the building, which once was home to Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis’ printing empire (The Illustrated Review, a mostly photo magazine, at one time had a circulation of 1.6 million copies a week), would not only exhibit and demonstrate the history of printing, but the structure could serve as a learning center, with small studio workshops, lectures and conferences.
He suggested even bringing Cal Poly’s small printing museum to Atascadero.
Nobody knows what will become of Gearhart’s building. It is still tied up in legal maneuvering. Even if some local nonprofit got the building for free, it would cost millions to not only repair the damage caused by the earthquake but bring it into conformance with new safety standards.
The building is an unreinforced masonry structure. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. Gearhart already removed the old outdated plumbing fixtures. Much of the interior spaces were cleared of debris. A pile of new decorative tiles already stand in one corner waiting for reconstruction efforts that were underway before the earthquake hit. Murals by Atascadero’s resident artist, Ralph Holmes, adorn the walls in the entrance and up the staircase.
Broken windows have allowed both rainwater and pigeons inside to do their damage.
Heesch concluded, “If we could come up with a specific vision plan that would have a great appeal, we could possibly find philanthropic organizations, companies and individuals who might want to get involved.”
I like the way he thinks.