Discover the Meaning Behind Historical Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

Lucy The Elephant

Most of us have seen the cartoon Dumbo and heard many stories about him, but what if we tell you there is an elephant even bigger than Dumbo. As a matter of fact, this elephant exists in real life and she stands tall in Margate, NJ!

Lucy the elephant is one of the tallest and biggest elephants in Margate, New Jersey. Five miles from Atlantic City, she stands as an example of novelty architecture. Lucy the elephant was created in 1881 by James V. Lafferty. The statue is six stories high and is made of tin and wood.

The History of Lucy the Elephant

Originally named Elephant Bazaar, Lucy the elephant was made by James V. Lafferty in 1881. The structure of Lucy the Elephant will leave your jaw dropping in awe. She measures 65 feet (19.7 m) in height, 60 feet (18.3 m) in length, and 18 feet (5.5 m) in width, and she weighs about 90 tons. She was constructed using 1 million blocks of wood, 200 Kg’s of nails, 4 tons of bolts and iron bar, and 12,000 square feet of a tin sheet.

The structure was patented by Mr. Lafferty for 17 years but was sold early on to Anton Gertzen of Philadelphia in 1887.

In 1902, the granddaughter of Anton Gertzen gave a name to the structure: Lucy the Elephant.

The Asian elephant was used as a symbol of the Atlantic City’s souvenirs and printed on most of the postcards. In fact, she still is printed on many of the souvenirs to this day! A hotel near Lucy the Elephant was also known as the “The Elephant Hotel of Atlantic City”.

The “Save Lucy Committee”

In the 1960s, Lucy the Elephant was set to be demolished as the statue was no longer being taken care of. But in 1969, Edwin T. Carpenter and fellow citizens of Margate formed the “Save Lucy Committee” to stop the destruction. They were given a time frame of 30 days to either pay for the demolition or move the structure to another location.

The Save Lucy Committee had successfully raised funds by going door-to-door to collect money and they used to funds to pay to stop the demolition. Lucy the Elephant was then moved 100 yards southwest to an open lot in the next town owner. It took seven hours to move the statue these 100 yards!

In 1974, Lucy all ready to have her structure repaired and her wooden frame bolstered with new steel. The “howdah”, or red seat that sits on her back, was replaced as the original one had suffered some damage. The interior was also upgraded with green glass to refract light that enters Lucy’s structure.

Lucy was named as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

In 2006, Lucy was struck with a bolt of lightning, which caused the tusk to become blackened. However, they luckily remained intact!

Sadly, Lucy is the only elephant who survived through the Save Lucy campaign. Two other elephant structures made by James V. Lafferty in Coney Island and Cape May were demolished and could not be saved.

Is the Lucy the Elephant male or female?

Lucy the Elephant is commonly referred to as being female, but many wonder about her tusks, as only male Asian elephants have tusks. The is because initially Lucy the Elephant was built to be a male.

Despite this, the people of Margate and tourists quickly accepted it as a female elephant because of the feminine name “Lucy” that was given to her.

Purpose of Building Lucy the Elephant

Image of the inside of Lucy the Elephant structure as a fun family day trip idea near Atlantic City NJ

The primary reason James Lafferty built the elephant-shaped building was to bring more business to Atlantic City.

He would bring the city’s visitors to the top (howdah) and show them the Atlantic City view. Much of the time, this was in hopes that they would purchase land or property within the city. The structure has 22 windows, which provides a decent view around the city.

The view from the howdah presented visitors with a great sight of the city, including the beach, skyline, and the Atlantic Ocean. It also serves as a watch deck for tourists and local people who come just to visit.

Lucy the Elephant as an Airbnb & Hotel

Image of a man sitting in front of the bed inside of Lucy the Elephant used for Airbnb and hotel purposes in Margate NJ

Lucy actually does have some really nice interior decorations, wooden floors, and tiling inside of her structure, making it a livable area for visitors.

In February 2020, Lucy was listed on Airbnb with a price of $138 per night. This was very exciting for visitors of the city, however, this was not the first time humans had a chance to live and stay within Lucy the Elephant. In the early 1900s, Lucy was actually rented as a house.

In 1902, a family of six rented Lucy the Elephant to live in. In order for the family to live within Lucy, a second floor was constructed within the elephant’s wooden frame, a kitchen installed, and a parlor built.

As of of today, the second floor has been removed and there is no running water. The only thing left is a claw-foot bathroom tub in a tiny space.

Airbnb furnished Lucy with Victorian furnishing has contributed to the Save Lucy Committee to keep her standing strong for years to come.

When staying in Lucy, guests can enjoy dining alongside scenic ocean views and sleep on the red-clothed canopy bed. Breakfast is delivered to the guests right within Lucy the Elephant, which means they don’t have to climb down to go to a nearby restaurant.

The dining table is perfectly positioned right below Lucy the Elephant’s eyes, which glow ocean blue at night. Her historical lit-up eyes once served as signals for Rum runners navigating the ocean during prohibition. The eyes were turned green when it was safe for them to come ashore.

FAQ’s

1. Why was Lucy the Elephant built?
Real estate developer James Lafferty built Lucy for promoting the estate business and to attract potential customers to his land holdings south of Atlantic City (Margate, NJ)

2. What street is Lucy the Elephant located on?
Lucy is placed at 9200 Atlantic Ave. in Margate City, NJ.

3. How big is Lucy the Elephant?
Made of nearly 1 million wood pieces, Lucy the Elephant stands 65 feet high, 60 feet long, 18 feet wide

Conclusion

Lucy the Elephant is one of the beautiful roadside attractions for tourists and visitors in the Jersey Shore.

The giant structure has quite exquisite Victorian furnishings inside.

Although she was built for estate purposes, the structure is now one of the major tourist attractions and a souvenir symbol for Atlantic City and Margate, NJ. Lucy the Elephant is a must-visit tourist place if you are in NJ and provides visitors with some of the city’s best views.

Looking for even more fun at the Jersey Shore?

If you’re planning a day trip to Atlantic City or the Atlantic City area, you may want to check out our Atlantic City Boardwalk Guide for some of the most fun attractions, places to eat, and things to do in the city. The fun most definitely does not end at Lucy the Elephant!

For more fun things to do down the shore, check out the complete NJ Shore Guide.

Only interested in the very best of the best? Our picks for over 300 of the best things to do at the Jersey Shore will not disappoint. Search for bars, attractions, and fun water activities such as boating, parasailing, jet skiing, and more!

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