The Geary Theater is one of two works by Bliss & Faville on the National Historic Register ( the Matson Building is the other). It was one of eight legitimate theaters built in the years immediately following 1906. San Francisco had always loved its theater and was starved for shows in the aftermath of the disaster.
Opening in 1910 as the Columbia Theater, through many seasons and several name changes it has hosted many of the great lights of the American Stage: Catherine Cornell, Frederic March, Cornelia Otis Skinner, the Lunts and Ethel Barrymore to name just a few. Since 1967 it has been home to the American Conservatory Theater company and has borne that ensemble's name since 2006.
The 1989 Loma Prieta Quake caused the proscenium to collapse, taking with it the light rail, several rows of seats and a portion of the roof. $2 million plus in restoration later it is again considered one of the country's finest.
And about this terra cotta...If you are building a Public Library or a Corporate HQ, I guess you have to be just a little reserved. Taxpayers and Boards of Directors expect frugality. When it comes to a theater though, people expect a show.