A sidewalk triangle in Greenwich Village

“Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes.” That’s the message on a tiled mosaic triangle inset in a sidewalk at Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street in Manhattan’s West Village. It hearkens back to a 1920s-1930s dispute over eminent domain, and stands as the enduring monument to a property owner who wouldn’t give in [Dan Lewis, Now I Know, who adds a note on the historic Kelo v. New London dispute]


  • As I recall, as late as the 1970s similar markers could be seen in the pavement at Rockefeller Center. The markers defined where some boundary existed for Columbia University property, and stated that permission to cross that boundary was revocable. I have no idea if the markers are still there but I suspect they were put there for the same reason as motivated the Hess Estate.

  • John,

    I think, for the most part, the signs you saw were to show ownershipt to prevent adverse possession. I believe the Hess property sign was put there to show that it was owned by Hess and was symbolic. My understanding is that, in times past, the property owners created an access used by the public, which benefits the property owners. However, they did not post signs indicating the property was privately owned. Doing this created a psuedo-public property right (an easesment) and, if the owners sought to shut the access point down, the government could claim it in an adverse-possession type proceedings. By posting the signs, owners are seeking to notify the public of the private nature of the property and prevent adverse possession. I do not believe the Hess’s are actually afraid of adverse-possession proceedings.