Der Rathskeller History

Der Rathskeller is one of the most iconic locations on campus. Here are some quick facts and history about Der Rathskeller, from the Wisconsin Union (watch the video here). 

  • Der Rathskeller opened in 1928 in the Memorial Union, and only male students were allowed inside. 
  • In response, the Union Women Affairs Committee established a meeting place in the Paul Bunyan room in 1934, and called it "Der Catskeller".
  • Finally, in 1941, women were allowed to use Der Rathskeller, but only after 2:30 PM. 
  • At this juncture, an event called Danceskeller began to run every Friday and Saturday night, where male and female students paid 25 cents to swing dance the night away. 
  • The word "Rathskeller" is German, and roughly translates to "the basement of a town hall", which was widely known in Germany as a place where citizens would meet for fellowship and refreshments after a long day.
  • Eugene Hausler, a German artist, painted the murals in Der Rathskeller in 1927. He originally painted 8 murals in total. Six of them represent the six facets of university life: athletics, forensics, student government, journalism, drama, and music. The mural above the Eastern fireplace represented the "fun" side of student life, while the mural above the Western fireplace represented the "serious" side of student life. 
  • In 1978, another German artist, Kurt Schaldach, updated the murals and added a new one to Der Stiftskeller, called the "Battle of Beer and Wine".
  • In 1933, Der Rathskeller served its first beer, becoming the first public university in the nation to offer beer on campus. Though other universities have followed suit since then, the number serving beer is still small, making this a unique aspect about Der Rathskeller that lives on today. 
  • Der Rathskeller was modeled after German beer halls, which account for the arches included in the architecture, the heavy plaster-type walls, and the thick wooden furniture that can still be found there today. 
  • Today, Der Rathskeller and Der Stiftskeller serve 35 beers when they are at full capacity. Currently, they serve 13 beers on tap, one of which is Gray's Rathskeller Ale. Another is the result of a collaboration between an undergraduate biochemistry class and the Wisconsin Brewing Company, aptly named WBC Campus Craft Inaugural Red. The Wisconsin Union is committed to serving Wisconsin beers, so many beers on tap are local.
For more information about der Rathskeller, visit: