Menomonie, Wisconsin History/CKS96
Mabel Tainter was born on December 6th 1866 to Andrew and Bertha Tainter. As a child, Mabel loved the arts and music. In 1886, Mabel Tainter tragically died at the age of nineteen under mysterious circumstances. As a memorial to their daughter Andrew and Bertha financed the construction of the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater located in Menomonie, Wisconsin . This article includes Mabel's life, death, afterlife and the Theater that was constructed in her memory.
Mabel Tainter (1866-1886)
Mabel Tainter was born on December 6th 1866 to Andrew and Bertha Tainter. Mabel Tainter was the third child of Tainter’s second marriage. She played the piano and was a lover of the arts. Mabel loved to show-off her clothing and would strut around in her new outfits. Not much else is known about Mabel’s life because she died at such a young age. But there is more controversy over her death because it is a bit of a mystery.
Mabel Tainter died June 10th 1886 at the age of nineteen, The death certificate states that she passed away from "cancer of the side" or a ruptured appendix. One rumor is “Mabel fell in love with a logger from her father’s lumber company”. But, there are rumors that Mabel was attracted to ‘bad boys,’ and she became pregnant by one of them. The rumor goes on to say that her father wanted her to get an abortion, and Mabel died from complications of a self induced abortion, which was recently illegal at the time because it was thought to be unethical. “making abortion illegal neither eliminated the need for abortion nor prevented its practice. In the 1890s, doctors estimated that there were two million abortions a year in the U.S. (compared with one and a half million today).” . So the practice of self induced abortion although thought to be shameful, and dangerous to the woman’s health, still was a common practice. It has also be mentioned that, Tainter had Mabel’s death certificate signed by a doctor in Minneapolis months after her death and the Doctor had never examining her body.
Supernatural events have been reported to happen over the years at the theater. Many of the employees at the theater have reported seeing unexplainable happenings.
Throughout the years, many workers in the theater and actors have reported multiple eerie happenings. These include seeing a lady in white, lights turning on by themselves, and disembodied footsteps when no one is in the theater. The police still receive calls to this day from people walking by the theater at night, insisting that they saw someone inside the building long after all the workers have gone home.
An employee mentioned, that she had seen Mabel walking down the stairs dressed in white in front of her and that she regularly sees strange things while at the theater.
The Mabel Tainter Theater
The Mabel Tainter Theater was built as a memorial for Mabel Tainter by her parents after her death in 1886. The theater took only sixteen months to complete and it opened in 1889, it was opened to the public in 1890. The building has been used in multiple ways as a theater, and a library.
“The building was constructed during the grand Victorian era, and no expense was spared. The exterior of the building is constructed of Dunnville sandstone quarried along the Red Cedar River” . On the outside of the building are craving of patterns and letters spelling out “Mabel Tainter Memorial” and the year 1889 framing the entrance.
Mabel’s parents were very involved with the details of building the theater “its marble stairwell to its brass fixtures and leaded glass windows to the intricately carved woodwork, luxuriant fabrics, and its state-of-the-art water-powered pipe organ.” They only wanted the very best for their daughter. The inside of the theater is gorgeous, it has patterns everywhere with accents of gold, there is gold on the walls of the boxed sits, gold paint on the patterned ceilings, the stairs going onto the stage are gold, and the front of the stage is painted gold.
When one enters the lobby and go into the front desk/gift shop area they will see a large round table with chairs surrounding a large cylinder in the middle, this was where the library was located. In the 1890’s Tainter donated 3,000 books from his personal collection to get the library started. In the back room, there are floor to ceiling shelves and the original ladder that rolls along the shelves making all of the shelves accessible. The large round table mentioned above was custom made for the theater's library so that the cylindrical heater would be able to keep the patrons comfortable during the winter, amazingly it still provides heats to this day. Another unique thing about the library, was that Tainter wanted everyone to be allowed the opportunity to get an education so he opened the library to the entire town. During that time, only the wealthy would be allowed in library because they could afford to pay to be a patron.
The Theater Today
In 2007, the theater was renovated, the modifications included an addition, to make the theater handicap accessible. The exterior rock uses for the addition was the same rock from the same quarry as the original sandstone. Repairs were made inside including repainting the ceiling in the theater, widening the original chairs and some other fire and safety updates. In 2015, The Mabel Tainter Theater is celebrating it’s one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary. It has also been named “One of ‘15 Spectacular Theaters in the World’”
This theater is special to the community of Menomonie because the Tainter Family did so much in this region during the late 1800's. Tainter had many modern ideas that he incorporated into the theater. Examples are the opening of the library to the public, and creating a multipurpose building, like the Mabel Tainter Theater. This theater helps visitors to feel like they are in a different time. It is filled with Victorian artifacts, and helps visitors to picture Menomonie in it's prime when things were bustling and there was wealth everywhere.
- Hirsch, T. (1975). Andrew Tainter, 1823-1899: A biography of a Menomonie, Wisconsin lumber baron (Vol. I, pp. Ix-xiii). Place of publication not identified: [publisher not identified].
- (Mabel Tainter Jena Reeg Steidinger, Tour November 9 2015)
- Dunn County Haunts and Folklore: The Mabel Tainter Theater. (2012, October 30). Retrieved November 12, 2015,
- HISTORY OF ABORTION. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2015,
- Historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts – One of “15 Spectacular Theaters in the World” (CNN TRAVEL). (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2015,
- Wisconsin Historical Society. (1890, June 19). Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Content.aspx?dsNav=N:4294963828-4294963788&dsRecordDetails=R:BA8744
- Kempfert, T. (n.d.). PortalWisconsin.org | Menomonie restores a landmark's Victorian glamour. Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.portalwisconsin.org/mabeltainter.cfm