Memorial Union (Wisconsin)

The Memorial Union is located on the shore of Lake Mendota on the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin. On the lakeshore to the north of the building is the Terrace, a popular outdoor space overlooking Lake Mendota. It has gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful student centers on a university campus.[1]

The Memorial Union
Memorial Union and quadrangle.jpg
Memorial Union (Wisconsin) is located in Wisconsin
Memorial Union (Wisconsin)
Memorial Union (Wisconsin) is located in the United States
Memorial Union (Wisconsin)
Location800 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°4′35″N 89°24′0″W / 43.07639°N 89.40000°W / 43.07639; -89.40000Coordinates: 43°4′35″N 89°24′0″W / 43.07639°N 89.40000°W / 43.07639; -89.40000
Built1928, theater wing 1938
Built byJacob Pfeffer of Duluth, MN (main building), Jacobson Bros. of Chicago (theater wing)
ArchitectArthur Peabody (exterior), Leon Pecheret (interior), Michael Hare (theater wing)
Architectural styleNeo-Renaissance (main building), Streamline Moderne (theater wing)
Part ofBascom Hill Historic District (ID74000065)
NRHP reference No.15000255
Added to NRHPMay 19, 2015


The exterior of the main wing was designed by University Architect Arthur Peabody. Opened October 5, 1928,[1] the facility is operated by the Wisconsin Union, a membership organization. Porter Butts, the first director, called it a "college union" because it combines the characteristics of a student union ("student activity center" in other countries) and a student government ("students' union" in other countries) in an organization that brings together students, faculty, and members of the surrounding community.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 19, 2015.[2]


Outside the main building is the Memorial Union Terrace, a stone outdoor dining and recreation area on the shore of Lake Mendota. The Terrace was designed by Peabody's daughter, Charlotte. It is a popular spot among students and local residents for socializing because of the backdrop of the lake, with its view of sailboats, and the sound of live music, usually free to the public in the evening. The Wisconsin Union Directorate funds music on the Terrace four nights a week in the summer, and on the Terrace or in der Rathskeller on weekends during the school year (depending on weather).[3]

Within the Union are rooms and artworks reflecting the local heritage. The largest is Der Rathskeller, a German-style beerhall with elaborate murals, where political debates and card or board games are common among students over a beer.[4] The Rathskeller directly connects the ground floor to the Terrace outside. Also on the ground floor are the Paul Bunyan Room and cafeterias. Upstairs are the Beefeater Room and the Old Madison Room. The west wing of the Union houses the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Daily Scoop sells Babcock ice cream made at the University. Peet's Coffee Shop is a privately managed operation that serves coffee and pastries. The Essentials desk acts as information and referral resource, as well as a small retail shop offering bus tickets, Eurail passes, newspapers, apparel, and snacks. Memorial Union houses several restaurants and cafeterias.[5] A catering department serves conferences, events for the university, and weddings of Union members, and the annual Tudor Dinners.

The Memorial Union underwent extensive renovation starting in 2012. These renovations included a redesign of the Terrace, a renovation of the Wisconsin Union Theater, and the addition of new restaurants and study spaces.[6]

In 2017, the 1.3-acre Alumni Park opened. The park is an art gallery and museum and displaying the accomplishments of Badgers throughout the 17 decades of the university.[7]

The Hoofers, an activity group headquartered in the Union, offer activities on Lake Mendota and other outdoor sites.[3]

Image galleryEdit


  1. ^ a b "Memorial Union".
  2. ^ "Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 6/01/15 Through 6/05/15". National Park Service. Retrieved June 13, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Memorial Union Terrace". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  4. ^ "A Firm Foundation," Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 3, 2000, pp. 1F & 5F.
  5. ^ "About Lakefront on Langdon".
  6. ^ State Journal
  7. ^ "About Alumni Park". Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  8. ^ Jim Feldman, The Buildings of the University of Wisconsin (1997), p. 206.

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