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Monona Terrace celebrates 25 years in Madison, WI

View of Monona Terrace's exterior from Lake Monona.

Wright considered Madison’s vote of confidence his greatest award. | Photo via Monona Terrace

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This past Mon., July 18 marked 25 years since the Monona Terrace first opened its doors. The community space has been a mainstay on the Isthmus that whole time, hosting 16,000 events, welcoming nine million visitors + contributing $697.5 million to the local economy, according to the City of Madison. Plus, its architectural influence stretches as far as the Big Apple.

Prepare for this Saturday’s celebration by learning how the Terrace came to be.

59 years in the making

According to the center’s website, Monona Terrace was proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright as the “Dream Civic Center” in 1938 — the same year he was named “the greatest architect of the twentieth century.”

It wasn’t until 1954 that Madison voters approved Wright’s plan. Laws restricting the height of lakefront buildings stalled the project through his death in 1959. However, the organic architecture of the Terrace probably influenced Wright’s last commission: the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.

Tony Putnam, a student of Wright’s, helped see the rest of the project through. The Terrace evolved over the next 40 years, changing focus from a civic center to a convention facility. Its aim: to provide a community space not just for tourists, but for locals as well.

On July 18, 1997 — 59 years after Wright’s original proposal — the Monona Terrace opened.

Aerial view of the Monona Terrace rooftop with people.

Roof party like we’re bringing ’38 back. | Photo via Monona Terrace

25 years later

Monona Terrace’s “25th Anniversary Celebration” (Sat., July 24) starts at Olin Terrace with the Extra Crispy Brass Band at 5:30 p.m., then moves to the rooftop at 6:30 p.m. The rain date is Sun., July 25. (33%, so flip a coin and hope it doesn’t land on its side.)

No tickets are required to attend this free event, but come early before the roof hits capacity. Attractions include the Dynamic Badgerettes, the People Brother’s Band, and the Lake Monona Drone Light Show.

Oh, and come hungry: the event features local food vendors + a cash bar.