Board of Directors
Cindy Quilling, President
John Zbornik, Vice President
Bill Butsic, Treasurer
Lucy Weidner, Secretary
Dr. Hank Simpson
Sketch of Mabel Tainter Memorial
Theater by architect Harvey Ellis
Andrew and Bertha Tainter in their house. The
portrait of the two girls now hangs in
the Reading Room.
Historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts
The Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts is a tax-exempt non-profit organization that strives to strengthen and connect our community by engaging people in the arts. As a non-profit, more than half of our operating budget comes from the generous donations of local businesses, individuals, and foundations. The Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts offers a full performing arts season, an annual Fine Arts and Crafts Fair, a Gallery Store featuring the work of local fine artists and fine craftspeople, outreach programs, community reads and literary events, and tours of the unique and recently-restored cultural facility.
In addition to providing our own programming, the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts partners with many community organizations, including The Menomonie Singers, Menomonie Public Library, Menomonie Woman’s Club, area schools, the Ludington Guard Band, and the Menomonie Theater Guild.
One of the many original functions of the Memorial was to serve as home to the Unitarian Society of Menomonie, with Reverend Henry Doty Maxson serving as their first minister. The Unitarians, as well as numerous other community groups continue to rent the Mabel Tainter Memorial for a variety of special events and services.
History and Architecture
The Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater was constructed in 1889 as a tribute to young Mabel Tainter, a lover of music and the arts, who died in 1886 at the age of nineteen. The Memorial was commissioned by Captain and Mrs. Andrew Tainter. Andrew was one of the lumber barons for Knapp, Stout, & Co. The memorial still serves today as a performing arts and cultural center.
The memorial 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 southeast of the present village of Downsville. Harvey Ellis was the architect. In his designs, Ellis included the Moorish style of curved surfaces, combination of arches, and hand carved details framing the main entrance.
The Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a charter member of the League of Historic American Theatres, and is a designated Wisconsin Historical Marker Site. The Mabel Tainter building includes a lavish 269-seat "crown jewel" Victorian theater. It is a premier example of a restored vintage American theater.
In addition to the theater, the historic building contains many other amenities. The former Reading Room housed the original Menomonie Public Library until the organization moved into its own space in 1986. Today, the former Reading Room features a Gallery Store of fine arts and fine crafts from local artists.
The interior of the building contains hand stenciled walls and ceilings, marble staircase and floors, leaded stained glass windows, walnut and oak woodwork, brass fixtures, and four fireplaces, each built with a different stone or technique. The Mabel Tainter Theater still contains the original Steere & Turner tracker pipe organ. The organ has a total of 1597 pipes and 28 stops. The pipes range from 2 inches to 16 feet. Although originally water powered, it was later converted to electric. The organ's restoration began in 1957 and, since then, has been fully restored.
In 2007, the theater underwent a 28,130 square foot addition and 22,650 square foot renovation. Miller Dunwiddie was the architectural firm hired to respond to the challenges of restoring a community landmark while meeting the needs of a modern theater. The addition provided numerous fire/life safety improvements, accessibility updates, and modernized building systems. The new exterior is clad in sandstone taken from the original quarry, which, with time, will blend even further with the original Richardsonian Romanesque building. The interior restoration involved investigation and careful repair or reconstruction of the elaborate Moorish style decoration. Theater seating was widened and refurbished to enhance the visitor's experience. The result is a theater that can continue its historic legacy and be appreciated for generations to come.