An ariel view shows Lucy at the corner of Atlantic and South Decatur avenues in Margate. For my history buddy, John Yates, the GPS coordinates are N39.3206/E-74.5117. (Map downloaded from Bing Maps.)
Lucy as she looks today, towering over an adjacent house on the Margate beachfront. (Photo by Bob Jagendorf downloaded from Flicker.com.)
Lucy is the world's largest elephant, and the only one in America designated as a National Historic Landmark. She was built in 1881 by James V. Lafferty, a Philadelphia real estate developer with a knack for promotion. Lafferty hoped that Lucy would draw people from bustling Atlantic City to buy property from him in Margate which, at the time, was in the middle of nowhere. She was so unique that the United States Patent Office gave Lafferty a patent giving him the exclusive right to make, use or sell animal-shaped buildings for seventeen years.
Lucy was originally named "Elephant Bazaar" until 1900, when she was rechristened Lucy. She was, and still is, an imposing sight, standing six stories tall, weighing 90 tons, covered with 12,000 square feet of sheet tin, and containing nearly one million pieces of wood. Lucy's body is 38 feet long and 80 feet in circumference; Her head, 16 feet long and 48 feet in circumference, sits atop a six feet long neck is that is 48 feet in circumference. Her body stands on 22 feet long legs that are10 feet in diameter with ears that are 17 feet long and 10 feet wide, each weighing 2,000 pounds. She has 22 feet long tusks at one end and a 26 feet long tail on the other end. Her glass, 18 inch round window eyes gaze out toward the Atlantic Ocean, and she is visible to the naked eye up to eight miles.
Lucy showed her versitility over the years, serving as Lafferty's real estate office and then becoming a restaurant, business office, cottage, and tavern which was closed down during prohibition.
A turn of the century postcard shows Lucy during her glory days. (Postcard downloaded from Google Images.)
Lafferty constructed two other elephant-shaped buildings after Lucy. The Elephantine Colossus, also known as the Elephant Hotel, was built at the Coney Island Amusement Park in Brooklyn, New York. The mamouth (Pardon the pun) structure dwarfed Lucy. It stood 12 stories (122 feet) tall, with legs 60 feet in circumference and housed a cigar store in one leg and a diorama display in another. Hotel rooms were located within the elephant's body, and an observation area at the top presented a panoramic view of the nearby ocean. It was destroyed by fire in 1896.
The Elephant Colossus at Coney Island. (Photo downloaded from Google Images.)
Lafferty's third elephant was was built in Cape May, New Jersey in 1884. Officially named the Light of Asia, it was dubbed Old Dumbo by locals, It was torn down before the turn of the century, giving Lucy the honor of being the sole surviving elephant building.
Artist's rendering of the Light of Asia at Cape May, New Jersey. It could pass as Lucy's twin sister. (Photo downloaded from Google Images.)
Lucy nearly didn't survive. Over the years her owners did little or no maintainance, and she became long in the tooth. By the late 1960's, she was an abandoned wreck on the verge of collapse.
Lucy fell into disrepair and was on the verge of callapse in the late 1960's. A "For Sale" sign hangs on her left front leg. (Photo by Yahonza downloaded from Flicker.com.)
Edwin T. Carpenter and a group of Margate citizens formed the Margate Civic Association, in 1969, to save and restore Lucy to her former grandeur. The group eventually became the Save Lucy Committee which, happily, was able to raise funds and move (2 blocks south) and restore Lucy in 1970. She was honored by the designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Today, for a small admission fee, you can tour Lucy's innards, entering via a spiral staircase in one of her hind legs.
Lucy's entrance door. (Photo downloaded from Google Images.)
Once inside, you may view a video and some photos of Lucy's facinating history. The tour finishes with a stop in the open-air "howdah" atop Lucy's back. From here you can get a breathtaking view of the Margate beachfront and the Atlantic Ocean.
Lucy looking toward the Atlantic Ocean. Bet you never thought you'd get mooned by an elephant. Now there's a window I'd be a little uncomfortable looking out of. (Photo downloaded from Google Images.)
You can take a video tour of Lucy, if you have high speed internet service, by clicking on the PLAY ARROW (>) below:
Following are a few old postcard views of Lucy that I downloaded from Google Images and thought you might enjoy.
A thirsty Lucy takes a drink.
How does one get room service on an elephant?