Former Brown University president, Henry Wriston, once proclaimed The Blue Room as “the boldest experiment [he had] ever seen.” That was in 1939.
Today… not so much. Sure, it’s a social hub, a muffin hub, and an after-4 p.m. hub. It may scream “let’s meet for awkward coffee,” “sure, I get work done in here” and “I’m social, bitch!” But, bold? Nah. BLUE? Not even. It’s as blue as a JetBlue terminal… which is to say, not at all. It’s floor to ceiling white. This might be a call to The Blue Room’s 1970s nickname, which was, I kid you not, the “Airport Lounge”—a name that says: I’m just gonna pretend that I’m boarding a flight to Budapest and never coming back! Sorry, econ exam.
I don’t think I’m alone in my pondering of The Blue Room. I’ve certainly overhead freshmen mumbling “but its not actually blue,” only for no one to have an answer. And so I decided, as I huddled over a burrito bowl, to go all Spotlight and expose the history of the place we have all come to cherish. You’re welcome.
A simple google offered a slew of results—but I wanted the dirt. I didn’t want a Spoon University article about muffin selection or The Blue Room’s twitter page. I wanted to know what started it all, and so I went back to 1939, where it all began.
Imagine it’s summer. It’s hot (wink). You’re walking into the fre$h new Blue Room with its “upholstered furniture and mahogany coffee tables, [and] soda fountain in the corner of the room.” What would you do first? “ Grab an ice-cold soda, dude!” “Seduce women, obviously!”
Yes, research has led me to conclude that The Blue Room was the original hot spot—a babe cave, if you will. It was the sweaty semi-formal of 1939, but in a much more “why yes my mother made me this tweed blazer” kind of way. According to Brown’s website, it “provided a pleasant place for Brown men to gather and to bring their dates.” I’m sure that those mahogany tables were the ultimate turn on, paired with the fact that no woman could enter the building unattended by a man—sweet baby blueno!—how could any woman resist?!
I imagine how a modern Blue Room-date would compare to this staged, heterosexual hell. Nowadays, it seems that no one would dare court their romantic interest in a place where people also meet to discuss the group projects they have yet to start.
Despite all of this “rich” history, I can’t for the life of me seem to find out why it is called The Blue Room, but more importantly, why the fuck nothing about it is blue. I am forced to settle for my own conspiracy theories, which all include some grumpy Brown business man (or simply some guy from alumni relations) crossing his fingers and hoping that someone would misinterpret the Blue Room for something else—a ploy to make $$$ of off innocent idiots.
Maybe the designer desperately hoped that people would think that the Blue Room was, in fact, just another Blue State, exploiting ethical coffee enthusiasts and then distracting them with muffins…
Or maybe he hoped that people would think it was somehow related to the Blue Room at the White House…
Or Coldplay’s 1999 EP The Blue Room…(I’m thinking definitely this one)…
Or The Blue Room by Picasso…
Or maybe Brown is just salty that it’s not included in this snazzy Wikipedia page.
At the end of the day, The Blue Room is still the place we know and love. And if its past–with the uncomfortable courting of our 1930s soul sisters–leaves you thinking that the only thing blue about this room is female oppression, then I encourage you to take my approach instead. Just say: Fuck that. I’ll take a lemon poppy-seed muffin and no man, please.
Image via and Sarah Clapp