The tragic death of 19-year-old Mabel Tainter in 1886 led to the construction of this unique and historic Victorian-era theater in the northern woods of Wisconsin.
Lumber baron Captain Andrew Tainter, who clear-cut most of northern Wisconsin, and his wife Bertha lost their daughter Mabel when she was just 19 after she suffered a short illness in 1886. As a memorial for his daughter, who loved the arts, the Tainters built a public theater and library out of locally-quarried Dunnville sandstone.
At the time of its dedication, the Tainters said, “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 of the community now and in the years to come.”
The exterior’s castle-like appearance dominates Main Street in Menomonie and was carved by Scottish stonemasons over the span of approximately one year.
Inside, the building hosts a 260-seat theater, hand-stenciled designs on the walls and ceilings, and stained glass windows. The original Steere & Turner tracker pipe organ, with 1,597 pipes ranging in size from two inches to 16 feet, remains in the theater. There is also a 19th-century public reading room that includes a sampling of local Wisconsin historical material.
In 2007, the theater underwent an addition and renovation, which saw the restoration of the local landmark along with upgrades to help it meet the needs of a modern theater.
Know Before You Go
The Mabel is open for guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment.