A brief history of the Great Hall at Cooper Union - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

A brief history of the Great Hall at Cooper Union

Posted: Updated:
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Where 3rd and 4th Avenues meet to form Bowery, the designer of the first steam locomotive constructed a college. In the basement of that college, he built a great hall. And in that great hall (it's named "The Great Hall") on a cold day in February of 1860, an unknown congressman from the Far West -- as it was then called -- believed he spoke honestly enough to win a presidential election.

"Lincoln said it was this speech and that portrait by Matthew Brady that got him to be president," Cooper Union Director of Continuing Education and Public Programs David Greenstein said.

Today the Great Hall seats 855, but when it opened in 1858 the now-sloped floor was flat, instead of stadium seating benches filled the room, and the speaker's platform stood off to one side. The space could pack 1,500, which at the time made it the largest public assembly space on the East Coast.

"There were lots of very raucous meetings here," Greenstein said. "There were anarchists meetings here. There were women's suffrage meetings here. The NAACP had its first meeting in this room."

Eight presidents, Fredrick Douglass, Mark Twain, Chief Red Cloud, Susan B. Anthony and dozens of other politicians, labor leaders, abolitionists, activists, scientists, poets, foreign dignitaries, Nobel Prize-winners and more spoke in Cooper Union's Great Hall.

"I can't think of any other place in the United States (where) such an aggregation of social and political events happen(ed)," Greenstein said.

The Great Hall's seen rowdy debates, protests and even arrests -- none of which it's likely to witness when Mayor Bill de Blasio's voice echoes off these pillars to commemorate his 100th day in office, Thursday at noon. The mayor will stand at the same lectern from which Lincoln once spoke -- albeit, now equipped with a microphone -- and, if he's wise, draw upon the ghosts of other speeches still reverberating off Cooper Union's walls: Twain's wit, Teddy's brashness, Cady Stanton's morality and, yes, Abe's honesty.

"De Blasio's choice of this space?" we asked Greenstein.

"Think it's probably obvious," he said. "It is to me anyway. And I hope it is to him."

  • Manhattan NewsManhattan NewsMore>>

  • Ex-Sen. Lieberman to teach at Yeshiva University

    Ex-Sen. Lieberman to teach at Yeshiva University

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:56 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:56:06 GMT
    Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman has been appointed a professor at Yeshiva University for the coming school year. The private university in New York City named him the Joseph Lieberman Chair in Public Policy and Public Service. He'll teach an undergraduate course and give three public lectures on topics ranging from Judaism and public service to the Middle East.
    Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman has been appointed a professor at Yeshiva University for the coming school year. The private university in New York City named him the Joseph Lieberman Chair in Public Policy and Public Service. He'll teach an undergraduate course and give three public lectures on topics ranging from Judaism and public service to the Middle East.
  • Dunkin' Donuts cashiers will try to 'upsell' you in the afternoon

    Dunkin' Donuts cashiers will try to 'upsell' you in the afternoon

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:30 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:30:38 GMT
    Dunkin' Donuts handout photoDunkin' Donuts handout photo
    If an iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts is part of your afternoon routine, expect a nudge to buy a cookie or doughnut you didn't plan on. Dunkin' Brands CEO Nigel Travis said in a phone interview Thursday that the company is pushing to get its cashiers to "upsell" to afternoon customers. It's part of an effort to increase sales after stores have emptied out after the morning rush.
    If an iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts is part of your afternoon routine, expect a nudge to buy a cookie or doughnut you didn't plan on. Dunkin' Brands CEO Nigel Travis said in a phone interview Thursday that the company is pushing to get its cashiers to "upsell" to afternoon customers. It's part of an effort to increase sales after stores have emptied out after the morning rush.
  • Baldwin: Rather pay up than apologize over arrest

    Baldwin: Rather pay up than apologize over arrest

    Actor Alec Baldwin is not apologizing over an incident that led to a disorderly conduct arrest in May.
    Actor Alec Baldwin is not apologizing over an incident that led to a disorderly conduct arrest in May.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices