Hess Triangle – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura

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Hess Triangle

New York City's smallest piece of private property. 


The smallest piece of property in New York City is a triangular concrete slab that remains private land as a matter of principle.

In 1910, nearly 300 buildings were condemned and demolished by the city to widen the streets and construct new subway lines. David Hess battled the city to keep the Voorhis, his 5-story apartment building. He resisted eminent domain laws for years, but was ultimately forced to give up his property. 

By 1914, the 500-square-inch concrete triangle was all that remained of Hess’ property. As if his loss wasn’t bad enough, the city asked him to donate the tiny portion of concrete to use as part of the public sidewalk. Out of spite, Hess refused the offer. On July 27, 1922, he had the triangle covered with mosaic tiles, displaying the statement, “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes.”

Although the triangular mosaic is walked all over by pedestrians, it serves as a constant reminder that Hess was not easily conquered. Hess’s Triangle sits on the ground outside of a cigar shop on the corner of Christopher and 7th Avenue, just a bit larger than a generously-sized pizza slice. Village Cigars bought the triangle in 1938 for $1,000.

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