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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, interior (M. Fay photo, 2004)

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building (HP-PHD photo)

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building (HP-PHD photo)

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, interior (HP-PHD photo)

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building
205 Main Street, Menomonie, Dunn County
Architect: Harvey Ellis
Construction Date: 1889

People who developed and profited from Wisconsin's enormous lumber-related enterprises in the nineteenth century also endowed the northern part of the state with lasting examples of public generosity. None is more outstanding than the remarkable building Captain Andrew Tainter built in Menomonie as a memorial to his eldest daughter, who had died while away at college.

The Mabel Tainter Memorial Building was constructed in 1889 to house a public library, public meeting rooms and a theater. Harvey Ellis, a gifted architect who was then working in the offices of Minneapolis architect Leroy Buffington, designed the building in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. The Tainter building exhibits the massive scale, heavy appearance and rough stone construction typical of the style. Doors and windows are deeply set into arched openings that have an exaggerated appearance due to the heavy masonry that frames them. Ellis's brilliant design is also notable for the four short but massive towers placed at the corners of the building.

The imposing nature of the building is lightened somewhat by the elaborate use of decorative stone carving around and above the monumental, arched main entrance. But, it is the interior of the building that is truly extraordinary. The interior of the Tainter Memorial Building, with its use of Middle Eastern Moorish design motifs, and naturalistic ornament inspired by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, is one of Wisconsin's finest nineteenth century interiors. Elaborate chandeliers, curved balconies and a highly detailed proscenium arch over the stage highlight the spectacular theater interior.

The building's architect, Harvey Ellis (1852-1904), was a talented designer and illustrator. Unfortunately, he built far fewer projects than he designed. Of those that have survived, the Mabel Tainter Building is one of the finest. It has been restored and continues to serve the people of Menomonie. It is open to the public during normal business hours and for special weekend and evening events.

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