At the corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue South in the West Village, in front of the iconic Village Cigars store, lies this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mosaic embedded in the sidewalk. The triangle’s enigmatic message: “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes.”
In the early days of the 20th century when New York City was expanding the IRT subway line, city officials tore down a nearby apartment building owned by a Philadelphian named David Hess. A tiny triangle of land was missed during the municipal the survey . The city asked the family to donate the diminutive property to the public, but family refused.
As things often go in NYC, the Hess family battled the city in court and actually won the right to preserve their little plot, and embedded the tile plaque in 1922 as kind of a victory symbol. In 1938, they sold the plot to the Village Cigar owners for $100.