About a dozen advocates of historic preservation skipped the beach yesterday to protest the brick-by-brick, tile-by-tile destruction of whimsical architectural details adorning the Silver Theater, which they consider the centerpiece of Silver Spring's art deco district.

Carrying signs with such slogans as, "The tarnished Silver can shine again," the small cadre of men and women passed out leaflets and copies of newspaper articles explaining their cause to passers-by.

They want work halted on the 1930s theater until after the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission meets on Thursday to consider whether the theater, an adjacent shopping center and a row of shops across Colesville Road merit special historical designation to protect them from destruction to make way for high-rise buildings.

Richard Striner, president of the 500-member Art Deco Society of Washington, led the group. Striner said the Labor Day holiday, and the last-minute scheduling of the demonstration hindered turnout, but hadn't dampened their zeal.

Striner alleged that the Silver Theater owners rushed to dismantle the art deco hallmarks of the movie palace when they learned of the commission meeting, the first in a three-step process to designate the area a historic district and protect it from demolition.

Owner Fred Burka could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"I just don't like the idea that developers take a neighborhood like this and make it sterile. They tear down and tear down, and all that goes up is glass and brick. Ugh!" said Estelle Feigenbaum, 50, who said that she remembered watching construction of the theater and shopping center in the late '30s and early '40s.

Shoppers, strollers and moviegoers milled around the protesters, listening to speeches on art deco and collecting flyers urging them to attend the commission meeting and to write their elected officials.

Meanwhile, a lone workman poured gray concrete at the threshold of the Silver's right door to replace a geometric red, green, blue, white, black and red tile mosaic design torn up Friday. It's twin, still decorating the left threshold, will be torn out next.