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Update | Spring/Summer 2021

Photo Gallery: A Terrace for All Time

Photography by Paul L. Newby, Jeff Miller, and UW Archives

Ask generations of Badgers what they loved most about their time at UW–Madison and one place comes up time and time again: the Memorial Union Terrace. For nearly a century, the Terrace has been the place to socialize, study, relax, eat ice cream, listen to music, and show friends and family what makes campus so special. The Memorial Union’s first director, Porter Butts, might have offered up the best description of the Terrace in 1934 when he wrote, “Where, other than 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?” Not a lot has changed since the Terrace was built in 1928, for one good reason: It’s perfect.

Terrace in the 1940s
It’s not a movie set, it’s the Terrace in the 1940s—before it had settled into a particular design for the chairs. UW Archives (ID #uwar00612)
Students carrying terrace chairs.
Student volunteers help with a campus rite of spring—returning the chairs to the Terrace.
View of Lake Mendota from the terrace
Just enough sunshine blankets the Terrace on a picture-perfect summer day, a scene that hasn’t changed much in the Terrace’s 93 years. UW Archives (#S10913)
People eating at the terrace
As in this pre-pandemic photo, the Terrace is open to the public again this spring after being open last summer only to students, faculty, and staff due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Students eating Babcock Ice Cream
Blue Moon? Badger Blast? Union Utopia? A trip to the Terrace isn’t complete without some Babcock Ice Cream.
People sitting and eating at the terrace, while people watching.
For all the pastimes the Terrace has to offer, people-watching has always been one of the most entertaining options. UW Archives (ID #S10805)
People canoeing on Lake Mendota
The Terrace is a popular entry point to Lake Mendota whether you want to paddle or just tag along for the ride, like this trio in the 1970s. UW Archives (ID #S10920)
Movie projected onto the side of the terrace
In recent years, the Terrace has become a destination for a good old-fashioned outdoor movie. In 2016, this crowd gathered to watch “Animal House,” a perfect movie to watch on a college campus.
Students painting on the terrace.
The Terrace has long been an inspiration for painters and photographers, as well as students who want to create their own works of art.