Hess Triangle — the smallest piece of private property in New York City

The tiny triangle in front of Village Cigars on Seventh Ave proudly displaying the words “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes” can easily be overlooked. Despite its small size, however, the triangle has a large story.

In order to lay down new subway lines and extend 7th Ave in 1910, the city condemned approximately the 300 buildings that stood in the way to be torn down.  One of these buildings—a five-story Voorhis—belonged to David Hess.

The city condemned a total of eleven city blocks to be demolished. And despite the fight that Hess put up to keep his property, it was futile to fight a city government armed with the power of eminent domain. But by some odd chance, the surveyors had missed a small triangular corner on his plot of land.

The city approached the family, asking them to donate this seemingly useless spot. But out of either spite or principle, the Hesses refused. Too add insult to injury, they inlaid the tiny triangle with a mosaic stating “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes.”

In 1938 the Hess family sold the smallest piece of private property in NYC to Village Cigars for the price of $1,000.

Location: Christopher Street & Seventh Avenue South, in front of Village Cigars

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