When passing the corner of 7th Avenue and Christopher Street, one might be drawn to a vintage-looking shop named Village Cigars. Indeed, it is a picturesque little shop with signage unchanged since the 1920s. But upon closer inspection there is a small mosaic triangle in front of it with the words “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated for Public Purposes”. What is this mysterious little monument?
When 7th Avenue was originally constructed, it ended (or began) at Greenwich Avenue. In 1910, it was decided to extend it further south along with the IRT subway line under it. By that time, the area it would be going through was fairly well developed and thus would require the demolition of 253 buildings to be seized by eminent domain, the court ordered sale of property to the government.
One of these was an apartment building called The Voorhis owned by the David Hess estate. They greatly resented the plan and fought it legally, but in the end lost in 1913 and the building was demolished as planned.
Some years later, the family noticed that the survey of the original property seizure did not include this little triangular plot of land. To add insult to injury, when the city learned of this, it demanded the Hess estate donate the land to the city. They refused and installed this mosaic in 1922 out of spite.
It was later sold to the cigar store and has changed owners since, but it still remains as a testament to the defiance of the Hess family.
Learn more about remnants of New York History in the Secrets of Greenwich Village Tour.