CNN ranks Mabel Tainter Theater as one of the 'world's most spectacular'

Eric Koeppel |

One of Menomonie's most historic buildings was recently recognized by CNN. Can you guess which one? No, it's not that creepy abandoned house behind Ted's Pizza that looks like the setting of a horror film, although I'm still convinced there's something fishy going on in there. It's the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts of course!

Photo: Wisconsin Tourist Board
Photo: Wisconsin Tourist Board

This over-a-century-old theater was included on CNN's list, "15 of the world's most spectacular theaters." The venue was built in 1889 in honor of Mabel Tainter, a local music and arts enthusiast. According to the theater's website, the building was "constructed during the grand Victorian era," and "the exterior of the building is constructed of Dunnville sandstone quarried along the Red Cedar River." The building underwent a renovation in 2007, and a 28,130 square foot addition was built using sandstone from the original quarry. Pretty cool, huh?

The venue holds 269 seats and hosts a multitude of events including live music, theater and film screenings. But the building itself is entertaining in its own right. Marble staircases, hand stenciled artwork, unique stained glass windows and intricate woodwork provide a classy and historic atmosphere. Oh, and there's a really cool modified water-powered pipe organ. This original Steere & Turner organ has nearly 1600 pipes ranging in size from 2 inches to 16 feet. I still think the theater should hire an organist to play "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on the thing for passerbys every evening, but they haven't gotten back to me on that.

"If this tiny theater is anything to go by, bigger certainly doesn't mean better," writes CNN's Tamara Hinson. Well said, Tamara. Can we please make "bigger certainly doesn't mean better" the official slogan of Menomonie?