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Terrace History

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Memorial Union Terrace History 

The Memorial Union Terrace has a long history that started with its construction in the summer and fall of 1928.

The Terrace was envisioned to serve as an “undergraduate playground” and host such events as Venetian night, Cap night, University sings, fetes and alumni gatherings.

The Terrace quickly became a favorite gathering spot for students, parents and alumni. Porter Butts said it best when he wrote “Where, other than at Wisconsin, may one step from university soil into a canoe, see the crews sweeping by, watch a glowing marine sunset while music plays from nearby student houses or the Union Terrace?”

A history of the Terrace would not be complete without mentioning the famous Terrace chairs.

Exactly when the chairs first appeared on the Terrace is unclear—but they can be seen in photographs taken before 1938.

The currently used style of chair is known as the Sunburst and it began showing up on the Terrace once the previous chair—the “Deauville” —was retired due to a design flaw.

The chairs are produced in three colors—John Deere green, Allis Chalmers orange and yellow—to pay tribute to Wisconsin’s farming tradition. They are also the primary colors of spring and fall—the seasons students most associate with the Terrace.

The years have passed. The space has grown. The chairs have changed. But the Memorial Union Terrace still remains a favorite spot for UW students, faculty, staff, members and the community.

Read The Memorial Union Terrace, A Landscape History