Dormitory Life

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Warner Hall dormitory in the 1950s. Image Courtesy UDigital_431_Dorms-Warner Hall-lpr.jpg

Imagine waking up in the twenties as one of the very few women at the University of Delaware. The residence halls included everything one would need ranging from the dining hall to the professors that lived down the hall. It is safe to say that the living arrangements were a lot different than they are now, though the food probably hasn’t changed too much. Dean Robinson, director of the Women’s College, served as an authoritative figure for all of the women in the dorms by residing with the students as well as utilizing her knowledge as an established professor. Some of her roles in the residence hall consisted of teaching the students how to put on makeup, enforcing discipline, and encouraging education. One important aspect of her teachings was to be respected by both the men at the university and their families at home. She knew that many of the women under her care had not had the chance to finish high school and she wanted her students to be able to flourish into valuable and educated citizens no matter their background.(Beneath Thy Guiding Hand chapter 3)

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A “cell-like” dorm room that Mrs. Warner decorated. Image 2738 courtesy Special Collections in the Morris Library.

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Mrs. Warner made great efforts to provide a homey atmosphere to Residence Hall (later renamed Warner Hall). Image 2739 courtesy of Special Collections in the Morris Library.

Similar to the layout of the dorms today, Dean Robinson promoted a cell-like setup in order to emphasize the importance of studying in all aspects of life. One can see today that the dull, cream-colored walls still exist in what is now called Warner Hall. In addition, to the rooms themselves, residence halls still have areas to study outside of dorm rooms, continuing the idea that education and learning should be involved in as much of the students life as possible. Since the establishment of the Women’s College, the university needed to expand its resources and buildings. “Since its opening, the college had added several buildings: Sussex Residence Hall in 1916, Kent Dining Hall and New Castle Residence Hall in 1926, and in 1930 the Gymnasium (now Hartshorn Hall, named for Beatice Hartshorn, Professor of Physical Education from 1925-1962). In addition, the college maintained three “temporary” dormitory buildings, called by the whimsical names Topsy, Turvy, and Boletus, which had been constructed in the early 1920s to accommodate the increased student body” (Beneath Thy Guiding Hand Chapter 3).

Temporary women's dormitories known as Topsey, Turvey & Boletus in the 1920s.  Image courtesy the University of Delaware Archives.

Temporary women’s dormitories known as Topsey, Turvey & Boletus in the 1920s. Image courtesy the University of Delaware Archives.

As the rapid enrollment in the Women’s College continued, Dean Robinson started to assign up to five people to a room. Parallel to the enrollment today, new dorms are being built, up to three students are being assigned to one room as the University continues to expand, though students today will never have to encounter sharing one room with four other people.

Although there are a lot of similarities, times have changed here at UD. The residence halls no longer have a 10pm curfew and now there are no professors living down the hall. A more important step for the future of women residential students, however, was the abandonment of the concept of a women’s campus separate from that of the men. New residence hall complexes, constructed on east and west areas of the campus, mixed men’s and women’s dormitories to create a “truly coeducational campus” (Beneath Thy Guiding Hand Chapter 4). Since the campus became integrated, women have more opportunities to succeed as well as set the standard for women’s education today.

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Photograph of newly completed Warner Hall (on the right) and Robinson Hall (on the left), looking northeast. 1914. Image courtesy of the University of Delaware Archives.

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The STAR Campus.

Today there are a total of 13 Residence Hall Complexes, made up of 42 buildings  that house almost 8,000 undergraduate students. The total number of university buildings just on the Newark Campus is 341.


In November 2009, the University of Delaware purchased 272 acres of land adjacent to UD’s South Campus – property formerly occupied by the Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant.” This new land has been coined the STAR Campus: Science, Technology & Advanced Research. Apart from the North, East, West, South, Laird, and Central campuses on site in Newark, the University also has campuses throughout the state. Other locations include: Wilmington, Dover, Georgetown, and Lewes

Looking back at a time where there were two total buildings for women to attend, the 341 buildings, over 2,000 acres of land, and multiple campuses throughout Delaware, would have seemed like a dream to founders Warner and Robinson. But in reality, what the university is today would never have been possible without them.

By Taylor Miller ( University Studies Freshman) , Allie Tjaden (University Studies Freshman ), Greta Sweeney (Art Conservation Freshman) Sam Matera (Anthropology Freshman) and Claire Martin (Honors Art Conservation Freshman)