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David Smukowski ’78

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.

If you want to know what happened to the “real” Terrace chairs, we’re going to have to go all the way back to the Union’s official opening on October 5, 1928, when hickory chairs lined the shore of Lake Mendota. While a popular style at the time, these wooden apparatuses were unable to tolerate the harsh Wisconsin winters.

By the early 1930s, two versions of metal chairs replaced the wooden version, one of which was the Deauville, the style you so fondly remember where the sunburst shape was achieved with springy curved steel strips. While perhaps a bit more accommodating to a Badger’s backside than the current stamped sunburst style, the Deauville chairs were prone to retaining water and consequently rusting. They were phased out of production in the 1960s by the Troy Sun Shade Company of Troy, Ohio, the original and sole producer of the Terrace chairs until it went out of business in 1976, but some Deauville chairs milled about the Union confines until the 1980s.

Several styles of chairs were tried (and failed) in the 1970s, until Wisco Industries of Oregon, Wisconsin, was contracted in 1981 to produce the current stamped metal sunburst style. It remains a popular choice for its durability and its ability to stay relatively level on the uneven stones that pave the Terrace, due to the partial hoop connecting the legs. Most chairs made today last for 20 years or longer, and are repainted the signature yellow, “John Deere” green or “Allis Chalmers” orange approximately every five years.

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