Parcel size: 1 square inch. Location: Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada
Price: Free with purchase
Land: Land: Five
Four Case Studies (Dawson, YK, Huntington Beach, CA, Newark, CA, Tres Piedras, NM, Richmond, TX)
Socialist Colony deed (Liberty County, TX)
The four places in Land: Five
Four Case Studies were involved with the giveaway of marginal, unbuildable land as advertising promotions, or the sale of uninhabitably small parcels (2" or smaller). Surprisingly, in some cases this free or cheap land did gain in value, was buildable, had oil found underneath, or was eventually resold at a profit. With the exception of larger lots in Huntington Beach, CA and Newark, CA, where the land, while 'marginal' and oddly shaped, was buildable, most landowners were unable to make use of their micro-holdings, or afford to purchase significant adjacent parcels to expand them to usable size. Most of the land was never occupied, and some land was eventually recuperated by tax default, unbeknownst to the deed holders.
Developers, cities, and other entities that could afford to manage fragmented title and clear tax issues often bought the parcels in bulk, sometimes using lawsuits to quiet title, or condemning lands whose owners would not agree to sell. This happened in Newark (now a shopping mall) and at the Lazy C Ranch in Texas (first a golf course, now a subdivision), and at the Klondike Big Inch Land Co. in the Yukon Territory (now the world's northernmost golf course). It also signals the move of lands once thought of as cheap, marginal, and distant wildernesses, to nearby and profitable.
The enthusiasm for and fascination with the possibilities of marginally inhabitable places is still unchecked, whether in Gordon Matta-Clark's Fake Estates, more recent Web 2.0 projects like Loveland, Detroit, failing towns offering free land to stayers, and current inch-of-land schemes. Along with enthusiasm for novelties of property, these places raise the issue of how land is transformed into property, and the dispossession that results from this transformation, as seen in the hopes of micro-land owners for the stability that property ownership confers in a land transformed to property, where all non-landowners are pre-dispossesed. In March 2010 one square inch was purchased for $10 in Liberty County, Texas, and deeded to Socialist Colony, as a contribution to the project Exhibition of Proposals for a Socialist Colony.
Parcel size: 1 square inch. Location: Liberty County, TX. Price: $9.95
Archival materials, including maps, deeds, photographs, and letters from deed holders inquiring about never-visited land in remote places were contributed by David McDonald, Caren Ferrera, Richard Fujikawa, Debra Jubinski, David Tritter, Bruce Baker, John Baker, and Allison Carter. Lazy C Ranch image from LIFE Magazine, April 19, 1954. Additional thanks to First American Title's Landsakes blog posters Bert Rush, Don Schenker, R.J. Dold, and Keith Pearson.