Memorial Union – The University’s Living Room

800 Langdon St.     Built 1926     Italian Renaissance

Theater Built 1938     Art Deco

Cafeteria Built 1957

Erected and dedicated to the memory of the men and women of the University of Wisconsin who served in our countries wars

1904 – In his inaugural address, UW President Charles Van Hise calls for the construction of a Union building to provide for “the communal life of instructors and students in work, in play, and in social relations.”

Founded in 1907, the Wisconsin Union is based on the principle that the University of Wisconsin-Madison experience should involve learning outside the classroom. The first floor of the old YMCA building/Association Hall was home to the Union Board from 1908-1916.

1925 – Armistice Day (Veterans Day), University President Glenn Frank digs the first shovel full of dirt for construction of Memorial Union.

August 22, 1927 – Charles Lindbergh laid a wreath at the Memorial Union's cornerstone, dedicating the building to the Wisconsin men and women who had died in World War I.

October 5, 1928, the Memorial Union opens, dedicated to the men and women of the University who served in our country's wars.

On May 4, 1937, the Board of Regents authorizes the Union to proceed with plans for construction of the Union Theater and new west wing facilities.

1939 The Union Theater opens with the performance of “Taming of the Shrew” staring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The Theater Wing addition also includes new Hoofer quarters, a craft shop, and eight bowling lanes

Great Hall
Memorial Union’s Great Hall used to have a 400-square-foot stained glass dome. It appeared to let sunlight in but was actually inside the building and backlit by skylights. Described as “style and complexity of a Tiffany lamp” the glass was removed in 1948 because it leaked and it ruined the acoustics of the room.

Initially, the Rathskeller was open to men only. Beginning in 1937, women were allowed to enter during summer session. In 1941 Union Council votes to open the Rathskeller to women from 2 pm to closing. One year later, women gain full access.

Construction Riot