Menomonie, Wisconsin History/kbmarie

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The Mabel Tainter Theatre is the most important building in Menomonie's history. The Tainter family built the theatre and dedicated it to their daughter Mabel because she died unexpectedly at the age of nineteen. When Mabel was alive she was very passionate about arts and that was the reason why her parents built the theatre to hold concerts, plays, and comedians. The theatre was built in 1889 and sits across from Bowman Hall on the UW-Stout campus. The Mabel Tainter Theatre is historically important to Menomonie because of who Mabel Tainter was, the theatre itself is one of a kind, and the Tainter family.

The Tainter Theatre
The Tainter Theatre

The Mabel Tainter Theatre

Mabel Tainter[edit]

Mabel Tainter
Mabel Tainter

How she died[edit]

When Mabel was nineteen she became seriously ill very suddenly. Each day went by and she kept getting worse and worse. In 1886 she died of what the doctors think to be from the “cancer of the side” or ruptured appendix. She was very passionate about the arts so after she died her parents decided to make a memorial for her and made the theatre in her name.[1] In the theatre itself her parents placed her piano in the basement. She used to play it all of the time and her parents wanted to dedicate it to her by putting it in the theatre as well.[2]

Secrets about her[edit]

Some secrets that people have been talking about is that after Mabel died her sister would pose as her in pictures and then the photographer would photo shop a picture of just Mabel’s head on her sister’s body.[3] People also felt like after she died that she was always around in the theatre. Mabel was so young when she died that people thought that she wasn’t ready to die so when she did she was almost attached to the building her parents made for her in her name.[2]

Mabel Tainter Theatre[edit]

Ever since the theatre was built it gradually became one of the top fifteen most spectacular spots to visit in the world. The theatre itself hosts many different events such as concerts, plays, ballets, and comedians. The Mabel Tainter Theatre has been entertaining thousands of people over many years. This year marks the 125th anniversary celebrating the grand opening of the Mabel Tainter Theatre. When customers go through the building they are just amazed with all of the art work, building structures, and the furniture inside. One person said, “This jewel box-like theatre feels like it could have been inspired by a child’s doll house”. Throughout the whole theatre it is made up of stained glass windows, fireplaces, and brass, walnut, and oak decor. Another customer explained, “When you’re performing on the stage, you realize how special the Mabel Tainter is”. People love coming to the Mabel Tainter theatre to see for themselves how amazing the place actual is.[4]

The theatre was constructed during the grand Victorian era. The outside of the building was built with local Dunnville sandstone that was obtained from along the Red Cedar River southeast of the present village Downsville. The architect that built the Tainter Theatre was Henry Ellis. During construction of the theatre he included the Moorish style which is an Islamic architecture that is curved surfaces, many different arches, and hand carved framing of the main entrance to the building.[5]

Rumors about the theatre[edit]

There have been many rumors going around from workers at the theatre, performers on stage, and people that come to take a tour at the theater. A couple tourist in the theatre wanted to spend the night to see if all of the rumors were true. At the time they were students at UW-Stout and made a blog about the Mabel Tainter Theatre. One of the workers reported seeing a lady in white turning lights on and off throughout the building. Others have said that they heard footsteps in the theatre itself when no one was even in the theatre. Police also told stories that they still remember getting calls from citizens walking by the theatre at night and received reports of people seeing someone in the theatre when all of the workers went home for the night.[6]

Throughout the year the theatre holds different events and even performers on stage have encountered mysterious things happening while being there. One story was that while performing on stage they saw "ghosts” watching them. One employee was going to clean the women’s bathroom in the basement and said she saw a young woman going in and out of the bathroom. That same entity was said to have a curious look on her face looking at herself in the mirror. A different case was that strange lights would go on and off in the library of the theatre or the posters that said what show was going on the next day would be switched when the sound engineer would come in the next morning from changing them the night before.[2]

Andrew Tainter[edit]

When he was younger[edit]

Andrew Tainter was a son to Ruth Burnham and Ezekiel Tainter which they had three sons and eleven daughters. For the first nine years of his life he lived in Salina, New York. His father was gone most of his life due to the fact that he worked for a logging company and moved him around. When he was nine he and his family moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin to be with their father.[7]

His marriages[edit]

When Andrew was older he married his first wife which was an Ojibwa woman. They ended up having five children together. A couple years later his wife’s tribe was becoming farther into poverty so he left her and took the children with him. Shortly after he got a job as a captain of a river boat he hired a widow to take care of his five children. Shortly after he married the widow and had another five children with her. Two of his Indian children died that year and he unfortunately lived to see three from his second marriage die and one more from his first marriage. When he turned twenty-one he left the job with his father and moved to Chippewa Falls with his grandfather to work at a pinery in which he cut hay during the summer. A couple years went by and he moved up to what is now Menomonie with his wife and children. His marriage with his second wife lasted about nine years and together they had five children as well. Towards the end of their marriage they were having differences about where their family should live, how their children should be raised, and their cultural and personal differences. During that marriage he worked as a general boss of all Knapp, Stout, & Co. Company logging operations. Once Knapp, Stout, & Co. Company purchased the riverboat which is now Chippewa Falls, Andrew became captain and combined this job with his previous jobs.[7] Towards the end of his nine year marriage with his second wife is when he met his third wife Bertha.

The Tainter Family[edit]

The Tainter family is now made up of Andrew Tainter and his wife Bertha Lesure. Bertha was hired by Andrew in 1859 as a governess, which is a woman employed to teach children in a private household, to his first five children with. On May 9, 1861, he married Bertha around the same time when he built a new house in Menomonie. They had five children: Louis, Ruth, Mabel, Irene, and Fanny. Irene died when she was just an infant, Ruth died at age eight, and Mabel died at age nineteen. Fanny and Louis were their only children living after Mabel died. Fanny was very adventurous and active with her life and Louis followed his father in his footsteps by going into business as took over his dad’s position at Knapp, Stout & Co. Company.[7]

Side Box Seating
Side Box Seating

Side Box Seating[edit]

The family had an unusual spot that they always sat in the theatre, the side box seats. The side box seats were on the side of the theatre and the family couldn’t even see the stage but everyone in the audience could see them. The family always wanted to be seen during performances even if they couldn’t see. No one really knows why they always sat there but it was almost like a tradition for the Tainter family.[5]

References[edit]

  1. Love's noble tribute. (1890, June 19). Retrieved October 29, 2015, from http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Content.aspx?dsNav=N:4294963828-4294963788&dsRecordDetails=R:BA8744
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lewis, C., & Fisk, T. (2004). Mabel Tainter Theater – Haunted Houses.com. Retrieved October 29, 2015, from http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/wi/mabel_tainter.htm
  3. Backus, C. (2011, June 12). 1886: Dunn County mourns the death of Mabel Tainter. Retrieved November 10, 2015, from http://chippewa.com/dunnconnect/news/local/history/dunn-county-mourns-the-death-of-mabel-tainter/article_f91c6090-93c9-11e0-95bf-001cc4c03286.html
  4. Powers, P. (2014, April 24). Menomonie Theater ranked among world's best. Leader-Telegram, The (Eau Claire, WI). Retrieved October 29, 2015, from http://ezproxy.lib.uwstout.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=2W62527214555&site=ehost-live&scope=site
  5. 5.0 5.1 Waznik, M. (2015). Historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts – One of “15 Spectacular Theaters in the World” (CNN TRAVEL). Retrieved October 29, 2015, from http://www.mabeltainter.org/about_us.phtml
  6. Hallgrimson, R., Fendt, H., & Rosin, E. (2012, October 30). Dunn County Haunts and Folklore: The Mabel Tainter Theater. Retrieved October 29, 2015, from https://uwstoutandabout.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/dunn-county-haunts-and-folklore-the-mabel-tainter-theater/
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hirsch, T. (2000, April 27). Our Story, Vol II - Tainter - a legendary figure. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from http://www.usgennet.org/usa/wi/county/eauclaire/history/ourstory/vol2/tainter.html

External Links[edit]

Mabel Tainter Theatre

Google

Wikipedia

UW-Stout Archives

Dunn County, WI