Terrace Views

Then and Now: Terrace Programming Through the Decades

Since its construction in 1928, the Memorial Union Terrace has been one of the most iconic destinations in Madison—and for good reason. Over the past 94 years, it has functioned as many things: an epic concert venue, a free movie theater, an outdoor lecture hall, an electric dance floor, an open-air art studio, a prime dining location, a ski and snowboard competition site and more. The decades brought new hairstyles, new fashions and even new chair designs, but the smiles and laughter at the Terrace have remained constant. We took a stroll down memory lane to reminisce on some joyous Terrace moments, from the 1930s to now.


At the Summer Music Clinic, the Wisconsin All-State Band gives a concert to a large crowd on the Terrace, ca. 1930-1939.
A model poses for a drawing class on the Terrace, ca. 1937-1939.


UW-Madison alumni gather outside of der Rathskeller during the 1941 alumni banquet.
Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister of India, speaks in front of a crowd on the Terrace on Nov. 28, 1949. 


The Terrace at night during a summer open house in June 1952 with entertainment and dancing for 25 cents. Photo by Milt Leidner.
A poster advertising a “Jazz and Lemonade” event on the Terrace, ca. 1955-1956.


Late-night dancing on the Terrace, ca. 1956-1961.
Raymond Dvorak conducts the University of Wisconsin Marching Band during a concert on the Terrace, ca. 1965.


The Buzz Gunderson Band performs on the Terrace, ca. 1975. Photo by Norman Lenburg.
The start of a Winter Carnival tradition: Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota in February 1979.


Spectators watch as a man attempts to windsurf on frozen Lake Mendota in February 1986. Photo by Robert Queen.
People dance during a jazz band performance at the Terrace, ca. 1985-1989.


Members of rock groups Nelson and Cinderella sit on the Terrace for MTV’s “Hot Seat” program in April 1991. Photo by Jeff Miller.


Members and guests enjoy a screening of “Singin’ in the Rain” on May 30, 2016, as part of the Terrace After Dark film series.
Madison band VO5 performs on the Terrace while audience members dance on June 14, 2018.
Inflatable Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota on Feb. 7, 2020. Photo by Sam Scribner.
Trumpeter Marquis Hill performs on the Terrace stage as part of the Madison Jazz Festival on May 20, 2021.

Wisconsin Union programming, including Terrace programming, is made possible in part through Union membership. Whether you’ve been a member for decades or just joined today, all of us at the Wisconsin Union thank you for your continued support. 

To learn about this summer’s Terrace programming, visit TerraceSummer.com.

Author: Abby Synnes

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