NYC - East Village: The Cooper Union Foundation Building
The Cooper Union Foundation Building, located in Cooper Square between Astor Place and East 7th Street, was designed by Frederick A. Peterson and constructed from 1853-1959. The brownstone faced, featuring Italianate and Rundbogenstil architectural features, was among the first (and earliest standing) structures to employ rolled iron beams and a steel frame--fabricated at Peter Coopers' foundry in Trenton--and was among the earliest buildings designed to accommodate an elevator. The original structure rose only five stories, with income-producing stores on the first floor. Several rooftop additions have led to significant structural alterations, including the 1887 replacement of the original rectangular second-floor windows with segmented arched openings by architect Loepold Eidlitz. In 1975-76 the cast iron storefronts were restored and the street level was converted into a library as part of an extensive renovation by John Hejduk, Dean of Cooper Union's architecture school.
Cooper Union's Great Hall, located in the basement level of the Foundation Building and dedicated to the free discussion of public issues, was site of Abraham Lincoln's Right Makes Might speech in 1860. Then a little-known attorney from Illinois, yet to declare his candidacy for the Republican Party's Presidential nomination, Lincoln gave a speech which opposed Stephen A. Douglas on the question of federal power to regulate and limit the spread of slavery to the federal territories and new States. Widely reported in the press and reprinted throughout the North in pamphlet form, the speech galvanized support for Lincoln and contributed to his gaining the Party's nomination for the Presidency. Other speakers over the years have included Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, H.L. Mencken, William Jennings Bryant, and American Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton. Clinton spoke on May 12, 1993 about reducing the federal deficit and on May 23, 2006, as the Keynote Speaker at The Cooper Union's 147th Commencement along with Anna Deavere Smith. He appeared a third time on April 23, 2007, along with Senator Edward Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Norman Mailer, and others at the memorial service for historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Great Hall continues to serve as an important metropolitan art space, hosting lectures and performances by key figures such as Joseph Campbell, Steve Reich, Salman Rushdie, Ralph Nader, Richard Stallman, Rudolph Giuliani, Pema Chodron, and Hugo Chávez.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, dedicated to the "advancement of science and art," was established in 1859 as a school offering free education to working class men and women. The legacy of Peter Cooper, who ran the first U.S. railroad and helped lay the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, it is the only private, full-scholarship college in the United States dedicated exclusively to preparing students for the professions of art, architecture and engineering. The Cooper Union began with adult education in night classes on the subjects of applied sciences and architectural drawing, as well as day classes for women on the subjects of photography, telegraphy, typewriting and shorthand. Those free classes, a landmark in American history and the prototype for what is now called continuing education, have evolved into three distinguished schools that make up The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art: the School of Art, the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and the Albert Nerken School of Engineering.
Cooper Union's Foundation Building was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.
National Historic Register #66000540 (1966)