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Photo gallery Memorial Union has evolved over the years, but that union vibe remains

October 11, 2017 By Emily Hamer

Students in 1974 and 2017 both enjoyed the Memorial Union Terrace. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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.

The Terrace

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 Memorial Union Terrace in 1955 and October 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

Lakeview Lounge

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.

Lakeview cafeteria as it appeared from 1956-81 and Lakeview Lounge in October 2017 UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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.

Main entrance of Memorial Union in 1928 and October 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

Main Lounge

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.

The Main Lounge as it appeared from 1950-9 and the Main Lounge as it appears today. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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 Hamel Family Browsing Library in 1954 and 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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.

The lunch bar in the Rathskeller as it appeared in 1940 and the food line as it appears today. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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.

Other than the number 40 written on the bottom right hand corner, there is no record of when the archives picture was taken. The current picture was taken in October 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

The Stiftskeller

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.

The Stiftskeller as it appeared from 1950-59 and as it appears today. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

Tripp Commons

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.

Save for a small “41” written in the corner of archive picture, it is unclear what date it was taken. The color picture was taken in October 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

Hoofers Lounge

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.

Hoofers lounge in 1940 and 2017

Hoofers pier

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.

Hoofers pier in 1938 and 2017 UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

The Terrace

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.

The Terrace in 1974 and 2017 UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

Union Theater

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.

The Union Theater in 1949 and October 2017 UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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.

Memorial Union Terrace in 1950 and 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer

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.

Memorial Union in 1965 and 2017. UW–Madison Archives / Emily Hamer


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