Menomonie, Wisconsin History/AmandaVE27

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The Mabel Tainter Theater is a historic, living memorial for Mabel Tainter, constructed by Harvey Ellis in 1889. It was constructed in 16 months, by 200 workers from many different ethnic groups. This memorial is located in Menomonie, WI on Main Street. After Mabel Tainter’s tragic death at 19, it was constructed as a memorial by her parents Andrew and Bertha Tainter. Her death was a big conspiracy that she died of a botched abortion, even though her death certificate stated “cancer of the side”. The Theater was ranked in the top 10 most fascinating theaters in the United States and in the top 15 in the country.

Who is the Tainter Family?[edit]

The Tainter family was one of the big founding families. Lead by Captain Andrew Tainter who added a lot of rich culture and money into Menomonie. The Tainter's left many amazing things that are still being used today.

Andrew Tainter[edit]

Captain Andrew Tainter was born on July 6, 1823 in Salina, New York. A few years after moving to Menomonie he started his own logging business, leading him to become partners with Knapp, Stout, & Co. Company. Andrew was married to Mary Poskin, daughter of an Ojibwe tribe's chief and had 5 children. Later married Bertha Lucas Lesure and had 5 more children with her.[1]

Andrew and Bertha's 4 Children[edit]

Louis, the eldest son who was instrumental in preserving and establishing Mountain Forest Reserve in New Hampshire.[1] Ruth, who died at the age of 8, Mabel, who died at age 19 and the theater/memorial was built in remembrance of her. Mabel was also a very talented musician, who loved to play piano. In addition there was, Irene, who died as an infant and Fanny, who was the youngest sibling.[1]

Why was the Theater/Memorial Built?[edit]

.Andrew.and Bertha Tainter built the memorial after the death of their 19 year old daughter Mabel. Her death was declared "cancer of the side" which is an appendicitis.They designed it as a living memorial for everyone in the community to be able to gather together. Mr. and Mrs. Tainter stated that in erecting the Mabel Tainter Memorial Building it was our aim to accomplish that which would be of permanent value to the citizens of Menomonie, to contribute something toward the intellectual, social and moral advancement and well being in the community now and in years to come.[2]

Conspiracy of Mabel's Death[edit]

Some people speculated that the death of Mabel wasn't an appendicitis, that is was more than likely an abortion based on many things involving her death not adding up. Some of the things about her death that didn't add up was her death certificate, which took nearly 4 months to get done; it was signed by a doctor in Minneapolis, Minnesota approximately 70 miles away from Menomonie who had never seen Mabel before and the date on the death certificate was 7 days after her actual death. This was really odd some would say because most of the other death registrations for that period in the Dunn County records were entered more promptly and more accurately.[1]

Architecture of the Building[edit]

The Mabel Tainter Theater was designed by architect Harvey Ellis who created this important and sophisticated structure of local sandstone in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.[3] The design also contributed a Moorish style with lots of arches, curved surfaces, and hand-carved surfaces.

The theater was built in 16 months which is amazing for even today with all of the technology we have now, Mr. Tainter hired many different cultured people with no experience and had the best of the best train them in their craft. There is a memorial painted on the Heller building paying tribute to those who built the theater. [4]

The outside of the Mabel Tainter Theater.

Exterior Architecture[edit]

The exterior was constructed with sandstone, which was shipped from the Dunnville Sandstone Quarries,

in multiple ton slabs in order for the builders to be able to cut to make the exterior of the memorial. On the

exterior of the memorial there is a boat’s bow carved into the building in order to commemorate the early

days when Tainter was a riverboat captain.[5]

Inside the Mabel Tainter Theater. Look at all the different Architecture.

Interior Architecture[edit]

Thomas Edison's Original light bulbs that still work 125 years later. At the Mabel Taitner Theater in Menomonie, WI.

Moorish style was represented well in the auditorium on the ceiling and walls with all the curved lined

designs. He picked to go with the Moorish style because he wanted the building to be universal so everyone felt welcome and it could be used for everything.The chairs in the theater where imported from New York City and were supposed to only be on the east coast at the time. Some of the original things that are still in the memorial are, the Edison light bulbs which still work 125 years later, the organ, marble floors and multiple William F. Cogswell portraits of different members of the family. Cogswell was a famous artist best known for painting portraits of presidents that are hung in the White House.


In 2007 an addition was added and renovations started on the building.The addition provided numerous fire/life safety improvements, accessibility updates, and modernized building systems.They wanted to keep everything as closely to what it was like when it was built but update it so it could be used as the generations continue.

What was the Theater/Memorial Used for?[edit]

The Mabel Tainter Theater/Memorial was designed to be a multipurpose, living memorial for the community to use. It had a library, auditorium, and many other different multipurpose rooms.


Interior of the Mabel Tainter Theater from the Balcony.

The  library was free for the community to use which was a big thing, because normally you’d have to pay. Andrew Tainter donated 3,000 books in order to get the library started. Tainter believed that, It is desired that these rooms be supplied with the best literature for young and old, such as will enlarge and enrich the mind.


The auditorium, was used for Unitarian, church services, plays and other big events. The auditorium was used weekly for church services; the first church services was given by Henry Doty Maxson who died after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.

What is the Theater/ Memorial Used for today?[edit]

The Theater is still using it for as a multipurpose facility. They use it for plays, musical events, lots of weddings and other special events. For a period of time it went downhill due to digital pictures coming out and people wanting to go see the new movies, not go see a play at the theater.  The library is no longer in the theater, they moved locations. The new building increases the size of the library from 2,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet and will allow patrons the opportunity to browse through the books, something the old library could not offer.[2] Mr. Tainter would be really proud to know that the library was expanded into an even bigger facility, so everyone still got equal access to learn. The new location was dedicated on September 19th, 1986 by Barbra Bush.

External Links[edit]

Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts

Portal Wisconsin Page on Mabel Tainter

Mabel Tainter Theater Facebook Page

Andrew Tainter's

Mabel Tainter Theater as Unitarian Church


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Hirsch, T. (1975). Andrew Tainter, 1823-1899: A biography of a Menomonie, Wisconsin lumber baron (Vol. I and II). Retrieved November 9, 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 DCHS: Mabel Tainter Memorial. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from
  3. L, K. (2008, August 3). Mabel Tainter Memorial Marker. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from
  4. Lewis, M. (2014). Menomonie, Wisconsin: Quiet Beauty Revealed Through a Lens. Retrieved November 11, 2015
  5. Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Local History & Biography Article; Milwaukee Sentinel; Menomonie, WI; Love’s Nobel Tribute. Retrieved November 10, 2015, from