Located in the small traffic triangle to the south of the historic Astor Place subway entrance and directly northwest of Cooper Union, this striking steel sculpture is by Tony (Bernard) Rosenthal (born 1914). Fabricated by the Lippincott foundry of Connecticut, the geometric piece consists of a sectional 15’-high Cor-ten steel cube, painted black, and poised on one corner.
The work was first created for the multi-site temporary outdoor exhibition organized by Parks and Cultural Affairs in October 1967, entitled "Sculpture in Environment." It subsequently became a gift to the City by Knoedler & Company, the artist, and an anonymous donor.
The spare simplicity of the work is characteristic of Rosenthal’s minimalist style and that of his peers in the 1960s and early 1970s. Its imposing size and "impenetrable strength" caused the artist’s wife to suggest the name Alamo after the citadel at San Antonio, where about 180 Texans were attacked by thousands of Mexican soldiers in 1836.
Alamo serves as a transitional feature from central Greenwich Village to the East Village, and is popular especially among the numerous college students who live and study in the vicinity. Rosenthal himself is reportedly amused that spinning the titlted cube on its pivot has become an East Village tradition.
A miniature of the sculpture was created to honor the recipients of the annual Doris Freedman award established by Mayor Edward I. Koch to honor individuals or organizations that have contributed significantly toward the improvement of the urban environment.
The statue of Samuel Cox, now in Tompkins Square park, originally stood here. Before Lafayette Place was extended to meet Fourth Avenue, it was the site of Little St. Ann's Church. This area was once a crossroads of Indian trails, and it's become a gathering place for annual anti-Columbus protests.