Ask Abe: Terrace Chairs

An Alum

How has the Terrace chairs changed over time?


Our beloved Terrace has seen its share of chair designs, all of which have had to answer to one ruthless and unforgiving critic: Wisconsin weather. The history of the Memorial Union’s Terrace chairs begins with the history of the Union itself. After its official opening on October 5, 1928, rustic-looking hickory chairs lined the shore of Lake Mendota. While a popular style at the time, these wooden seats couldn’t tolerate the harsh winters. In 1931, the Union sprung for two types of metal chairs: an early ancestor of today’s sunburst design and a similar Deauville design. For three decades, both were called “Terrace chairs,” but by the 1960s, the Deauville showed a flaw: its shape trapped water, causing the chairs to rust. Those chairs were phased out, and Badgers were left with the original sunburst chairs — that is, until the company that made them (located in Ohio) closed. In 1981, the Union contracted with a much closer fabricator — Wisco Industries in Oregon, Wisconsin — which still makes the now-iconic chairs.