Friday, February 6, 2015

The Hess Triangle

The southwest corner of Christopher Street, and 7th Ave, in the West Village is a little strange (and I mean little).
Directly in front of a cigar store entrance is a small, mosaic badge, reading:

"Property of the Hess Estate which has never been dedicated for public purposes."

It is the outcome of a conflict between the city, and the estate of David Hess, a Philadelphia landlord, beginning in 1912.
At that time, the city claimed eminent domain on Hess' 5-storey Voorhis apartment building (named after judge John Van Voorhis' family), so as to expand, both, the IRT Subway, as well as 7th Ave. The family was furious, but discovered that a section of land was left off a corner of the plot, and filed a notice of possession, which they obtained.
The city petitioned the family to give the land back, but they refused, and had the tiled plaque installed in 1922.
In 1940, the owners of the tiny triangle finally sold the "world's smallest property" to the cigar store for a grand, at .60¢ per square centimeter (about $2 a square inch).
It has seen better days, as it is now cracked beyond repair, but still a sight to see when walking by.