Written by on September 20, 2019

Need a little dorm room inspo? Check the University Archives!

This article was written by Isabel Brady (ECON, ’20), Student Assistant in Special Collections and Archives. Learn more about the history of on campus housing here.

As a new class of freshman move into the dorms this week, we thought we might provide some (historical) dorm room décor ideas from the University Archives. Here’s a look at how former Cal Poly students put their personal touch on those blank walls.

When he was a student in 1909 – 1910, Frank Pedley adorned his wall with fishing net and photos. Those pictures were quite a catch!  Frank Pedley Scrapbook, University Archives, ua-pho_00000836. 

1916 – Do you think he fit a baby grand piano in his dorm? Might be a little harder today with triple and quadruple rooms. 1916 Polytechnic Journal, University Archives, ua-pub_00000057.


1949 – A tapestry can give some life to a blank wall… but you probably won’t find this one at Urban Outfitters. Student in dorm room, 1949, University Archives, ua-pho_00001748.

1959 – Maybe minimalism is more your style? Red brick dorm room, University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections and Archives, ua-pho_00002048.

1965 – Maybe a koala or two so you’ll never be lonely. Two women in a red brick dorm room, 1965, University Archives, ua-its_00000050.

1974 – Got a little too much time on your hands? Patterns will keep you busy! Student in Sierra Madre Dorm Room, 1974. Public Relations Collection, Special Collections and Archives, ua-sel_00000419.

1986 – Everyone needs an Alvin and the Chipmunks bed spread… (and for that matter, a heartthrob’s poster and a Kermit the Frog landline!). Students in Sierra Madre, circa 1986. University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections and Archives, ua-pho_00003085.

For more inspiration, visit our collection of digitized photos of Cal Poly dorm life at our Online Collections.

A screenshot that shows thumbnails of different views of dorms and dorm life at Cal Poly.

Can’t wait to see what the new dorm residents come up with this year!

Read more on back to school, cal poly history, and university archives.

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