Lucy the Elephant, Margate City, New Jersey, USA Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Lucy the Elephant, Margate City, New Jersey, USA

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An elephant-shaped building

Designated a National Historic Landmark, Lucy the Elephant stands six storeys tall on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Margate City, New Jersey. How a 90 ton elephant came to reside in this seaside community south of Atlantic City is an interesting tale.

Hoping to create a real estate boom in what was then known as South Atlantic City, real estate developer James V Lafferty received a patent for the plans for elephant-shaped buildings and constructed Lucy in 1881.

The elephant building generated the national publicity Lafferty hoped for, leading him to build two more. A 12-storey structure twice as large as Lucy called the 'Elephantine Colossus' was built in the centre of the Coney Island amusement park in New York. The other was slightly smaller than Lucy. The 'Light of Asia' was built as the centerpiece of another Lafferty real estate promotion in South Cape May, New Jersey. The Collossus later burned down and the Light of Asia was torn down, leaving Lucy the only elephant-shaped building in America.

Unfortunately for Lafferty he eventually ran out of money and he sold Lucy to John and Sophie Gertzen, who operated the elephant building as a tourist attraction and a miniature hotel. A wealthy doctor converted her into a private beach cottage in 1902. She later became a tavern. In the 1920s, Lucy the Elephant tavern was forced to close by the passage of Prohibition. When that law was repealed in 1933, she immediately became a bar again.

After World War II, her notoriety began to fade and she fell into disrepair. She was slated to be torn down only to be saved by a grassroots group in 1969. The Save Lucy Committee had Lucy moved to beachfront land owned by the city and restored her as an historic site and tourist attraction. The group is constantly seeking money to keep the pachyderm structurally sound while seeking to refurbish the interior into a museum.

Today, more than 25,000 visitors each summer tour Lucy's interior and buy postcards in her gift shop. For a $3 admission fee, you can tour Lucy's interior and view a display of regional maritime artifacts and Lucy's history. The tour climaxes with a stop in the open-air howdah1 atop Lucy's back.

Ship's logs from over the last century indicate that on clear days Lucy is visible from eight miles out at sea.

She is located at 9200 Atlantic Avenue in Margate City. She is open for tours weekends in spring and fall and during the week from mid-June to Labor Day. For more information call 609-823-6473. Donations may be made to: Save Lucy Committee Inc, PO Box 3000, Margate, NJ 08402. Lucy now has a whole website devoted to her.

As a word of warning, don't make disparaging remarks about Lucy in the bars around town - the locals are fiercely proud of her.

Lucy's Vital Statistics

  • Lucy stands 65 feet tall which is equivalent to six storeys.

  • Lucy's body is 38 feet long and 80 feet in circumference.

  • Lucy weighs 90 tons.

  • More than 1 million pieces of timber were used to make Lucy.

  • This wooden structure is covered with 12,000 square feet of sheet metal.

  • Lucy has 22 windows.

  • Lucy's legs are 22 feet high and 10 feet in diameter.

  • Lucy's tail is 26 feet long.

  • Lucy's tusks are 22 feet long.

  • Lucy's eyes are 18 inches in diameter.

  • Lucy's ears are 17 feet long and 10 feet wide, and each one weighs 2,000 pounds.

1A seat designed to fit on the back of an elephant.

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