Photo gallery Memorial Union has evolved over the years, but that union vibe remains
After more than five years of restoration efforts, Memorial Union — in its entirety — is now open to the public.
The Wisconsin Union worked closely with the State Historical society to preserve historic spaces, while also providing necessary upgrades to the building, during the Memorial Union Reinvestment.
From a completely reimagined cafeteria space to the preservation of murals, architecture and more, the restoration transformed Memorial Union while simultaneously celebrating its history.
In the nearly 90 years of its existence, Memorial Union has undergone a variety of significant changes beyond this specific project. Take a look back at how Memorial Union has changed over the decades.
Even in 1955 — more than 50 years ago — the beloved Sunburst chairs were a staple of the Memorial Union Terrace. It’s unknown when the chairs first appeared on the Terrace, but they are seen in pictures before 1938. Today, former and current Badgers alike enjoy the green, orange and yellow seats that have become iconic.
The newly renovated Lakeview Lounge used to be a cafeteria called Lakefront on Langdon. While today the space is filled with unique modern furniture, from 1956-81 the space had square tables and simple chairs. Still, both boast the same beautiful view of Lake Mendota.
Memorial Union Entrance
Part of the goal of the Memorial Union Reinvestment was to restore old spaces and preserve the integrity of the original design. From 1928 to 2017, the primary change that the entrance underwent was the cars in the background. The rest remains preserved.
From 1950 to 1959, the Main Lounge in Memorial Union sported curtains, standup wall dividers and a box TV. While students then read print newspapers, today students study on their laptops. The Main Lounge was one of the rooms that reopened this past month.
Hamel Family Browsing Library
During the process of renovating the browsing library, construction workers discovered an ornate ceiling, which was thought to be lost over the years. They also uncovered quality hardwood floors underneath the carpet. The space has been restored to highlight these unique aspects.
The Rathskeller food line
The Rathskeller opened in 1928. “Rathskeller” is a German word that roughly translates to “the basement of a town hall.” In Germany, this was a place people would meet for socializing and refreshments.
Rathskeller seating area
Eugene Hausler, a German artist, painted the murals in the Rathskeller in 1927. There were originally eight murals, six of them representing aspects of university life, including athletics, forensics, student government, journalism, drama and music.
From 1950-1959, the Stiftskeller was primarily devoted to billiards. Today there is seating for studying or eating food.
In 1978, Kurt Schaldach, another German artist, updated the murals and added one to the Stiftskeller.
While Tripp Commons is now used as event space, in times past it was used as a cafeteria. The windows and ornate ceiling architecture have been preserved over time.
Hoofers Lounge is located in the basement of Memorial Union. While it has been revitalized in a number of ways since 1940, the same fireplace remains.
Since 1938, the Lake Mendota Shoreline has experienced a lot of changes, notably new buildings along the horizon. More recently, the first phase of the Memorial Union Reinvestment included rebuilding 800 feet of the Lake Mendota shoreline and installing a new swimming pier.
In 1974, students lounged on the grassy lawn of the Terrace, just as students today sit out on Bascom Hill. Today at the Terrace, students use the colorful chairs and tables as a place to study.
In 1949, students would relax on the grass in front of the Union Theater, which used to have the Chemical Engineering building behind it. Today the space has been remodeled as an extension of the Terrace.
Back of Memorial Union
From its beginning, the Terrace was a popular place for students. It was originally envisioned as an “undergraduate playground” for hosting events or hanging out. It served that purpose at its start in the ’30s and it serves that purpose today.
Front of Memorial Union
Even with all of the updates, much of Memorial Union has stayed the same. It was — and still is today — an iconic place for students to study, get great food, listen to concerts, attend unique events and make memories.