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. The Wisconsin Union's first director 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.
2016 Terrace Refurbishment
The Terrace reopened in May 2016 as part of the final phases of the Memorial Union Reinvestment (MUR). This renovation improved accessibility, sight lines and customer comfort while creating more seating space. The expansion of Lakeshore Path also increased the number of Terrace chairs by several hundred, and the Sunset Deck added even more.
Bigger and better than ever, the renovated Brat Stand now features more space and increased back-of-house access for better customer service, shorter lines and a happier dining experience overall. Now every visitor to the Terrace can count on even more time spent simply soaking in the ambiance and enjoying the best view in town.
The final phases of the Memorial Union Reinvestment included a renovation of the Terrace to improve accessibility, sight lines and customer comfort while creating more seating space than ever before. The best place on Earth is now better than ever. The expansion of Lakeshore Path also increased the number of Terrace chairs by several hundred, and the new Sunset Deck added even more.
Increased Shoreline And Lakefront Gateway
While not technically part of the MUR, a major improvement has come to the Memorial Union Terrace in the form of 900 feet of new seawall, returning the Lake Mendota shoreline to its natural contour and allowing more seating near the water.
As part of the ongoing Lakefront Gateway Project, the Terrace will soon blend seamlessly into the new Alumni Park/One Alumni Place project, creating a gathering place for students, faculty, staff, visitors and the University community—all while realizing a century-old dream to extend the east campus gateway from the Kohl Center to Lake Mendota.
Additional Food Options
The east side of the Terrace features a brand new dining option called the BBQ stand. This permanent concession stand features BBQ fare, cold beverages, and famous Babcock Ice Cream. The stand complements the existing, popular Brat Stand and the Stiftskeller service window on the west end of the Terrace.