David Hess was a landlord who owned The Vorhiss, a 5 story apartment building at Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue in the early 1900s. In 1910, the city was widening Seventh Avenue and putting in the 1 and 9 subway lines and a subway station at that corner. The city used eminent domain to seize the property.
Upon examination, the Hess family discovered that the city survey had missed a small corner of the plot and they set up a notice of possession. The plaque is an isosceles triangle, with a 25 1⁄2-inch (65 cm) base and 27 1⁄2-inch (70 cm) legs (sides). The city asked the family to donate the diminutive property to the public, but they chose to holdout and installed the present, defiant mosaic on July 27, 1922.
In 1938 the property, reported to be the smallest plot in New York City, was sold to the adjacent Village Cigars store for $1,000 (approximately $17,000 adjusted for inflation in 2016), approximately $2 per square inch. The cigar store, which still remains, left the plaque in place.