The most famous triangle in New York, the “Hess triangle” stamped on the ground, turned one hundred years old “never dedicated to public purposes”, as its message says, which refers to when Greenwich Village was still a town and not just another neighborhood. Manhattan.
The history that hides this centennial triangle where only one person can stand is largely the testimony of how New York was transformed from the 19th century to the 20th century, as he explains to Eph Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Historic Preservation Society.
THE DEMOLITION OF THE GREENWICH VILLAGE
“New York grew exponentially. In 1898 the five boroughs of New York were consolidated. So New York grew tremendously in size and population. And in 1903 the meters began to be built. In addition, it began to further develop its business center at the southern end of Manhattan, what we now call Wall Street or the financial district, as well as a second very large business district that developed north of Greenwich Village, in Midtown. , explains the expert.
In 1914, the city of New York launched an ambitious project to expand the Seventh Avenue subway line to connect downtown and lower Manhattan, which meant the need to demolish “several hundred properties” in Greenwich Village.
Back then, Greenwich Village was “a tangle of colonial-era streets” that weren’t connected to the grid that dominated the rest of the island, as this neighborhood originally started out as “its own separate town”.
More than 200 buildings faced demolition.
An eleven-block stretch will be “mercilessly cut off, destroying many curious old residences and businesses,” a New York Times article said at the time.
THE TRIANGLE OF SCORN
One of the buildings doomed for destruction was an apartment building known as Voorhis, owned by the estate of David Hess, a Philadelphia real estate investor and businessman who had died in 1907.
Hess’s heirs fought in court to save the building, but lost.
However, a small triangle of 0.32258 square meters survived. A surveyor made a mistake, since after calculating the distances and angles the lot of Voorhis did not disappear completely, as the city expected.
According to Berman, New York City offered Hess’s relatives to buy the tiny “lot,” but the family refused.
Since the construction of the subway had already finished and the city no longer had the legal support to expropriate the land, New York had to return the small piece of property.
Once the family became the owner of this peculiar lot now known as “the Hess triangle”, they decided, in July 1922, to leave their mark with the peculiar message written in black on a white background: “Property of the Hess family who it has never been dedicated to public purposes.”
THE SALE OF THE PLOT
The first part of the triangle’s message, “owned by the Hess estate,” ceased to be true in 1938 when the small lot was sold to the owner of the adjacent property, a popular cigar store, for $100, which would be about $2,000 now, according to Berman.
“For 53 years that part of Greenwich Village has been part of a historic district. That strictly regulates demolitions and new construction. And that’s one of the reasons Greenwich Village in general looks so historic and looks so much like it did 100 years ago or more. These rules are why the triangle is still there.”notes the specialist.
Now, this message on the ground, which is stepped on by thousands of people a day, has become one of the stops on the tourist tours of Greenwich Village, along with other points in the neighborhood such as the facade of the house from the series Friends or the Stonewall venue, the point where the LGTBIQ+ Pride march was born.
(with information from EFE)
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