Adjoining the Public Theater is a windy, disjointed plaza centering on the Alamo, a big black cube by artist Bernard Rosenthal. Precariously balanced on one corner, the cube is supposed to rotate when pushed, but that’s easier said than done. The plaza also holds a cast-iron reproduction of one of the original subway kiosks that once stood all over the city.
The largest brownstone in New York City is Cooper Union, located in the triangle between Astor Place and 3rd and 4th Avenues. The 1859 building was financed by Peter Cooper, a remarkable engineer who—among many other things—made a fortune in the iron industry, designed the first American locomotive, invented gelatin and a self-rocking cradle, and helped develop Morse’s telegraph. The son of a poor storekeeper, Cooper built his Union to house a free school of practical arts and sciences. Still in operation today, Cooper Union was also the first coeducational, racially integrated school in the country.
Downstairs inside Cooper Union is the Great Hall, where Abraham Lincoln made his famous “Right makes might” speech that won him the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. Abolitionists Henry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglass, and William Cullen Bryant also spoke here, as did every president following Lincoln up through Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition