Sunday, September 6, 2009
Margate, Home of the World's Largest Elephant
Lucy was built in 1881 at a cost of between $25,000 - $38,000 dollars by James V. Lafferty, Jr., engineer and inventor (d. 1989).
He made two others, neither of which survive.
The first was called "The Light of Asia," and was a 40-foot wooden elephant in what is now South Cape May (1884-1900).
The second was the "Elephantine Colossus" (122 feet high) at Coney Island, NY (1884-1896). For comparison, Lucy is 65 feet high.
She was built in what was then South Atlantic City (now Margate, New Jersey).
Lucy, in her present-day context.
She was purchased from Lafferty by Anton ("Anthony") Gertzen and later was
eventually bought by his third son, John.
He charged visitors 10 cents to tour it and climb the spiral stairway to the "howdah", or observatory, on its back.
(A "howdah" is the canopy covered basket that people sit inside
when they ride elephants or camels).
She was not originally named "Lucy," but received the name from one of the Gertzens.
Lucy has been used as a home, a tavern, and a tourist attraction.
Visitors included Woodrow Wilson, in 1916.
Entryway through her foot.
One leg is the entrance, the other is an exit.
What fun! I get to climb up inside an elephant that people lived inside!
Once you enter, you then climb these stairs.
The total is 350 steps from bottom to top.
The entrance stairs lead to an 18' x 18' reception room.
Here is a view of the inside: rather spacious, considering the outside; rather cramped, considering people lived here.
View in the opposite direction.
Lucy's body is 38 feet long and 80 feet in circumference. Her head is 16 feet long, her legs 22 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. Her ears are 17 feet long, each weighing about 2000 lbs. There are 22 windows.
The bathroom is in a closet in the front shoulder.
Here is a closer view.
The view of the beach from the howdah.
In 1970 the remaining Gertzens gave Lucy to the city of Margate and the land to a developer.
The Margate Civic Association had been formed to save Lucy from demolition.
On June 27, 1970, in a 7-hour trip, she was moved two blocks west to a piece of vacant beachfront property owned by the city. The move was tricky and expensive. The power and phone companies had to work with the movers.
The move cost $9000, plus $15,000 to make the new foundation.
Fundraisers paid for it, with the final $10,000 having been borrowed.
Luckily, the publicity of the move raised donations worldwide.
Our intrepid explorer and author.
The original howdah was torn off in a 1929 storm and replaced by a simpler one.
view of her head from the basket
Parking was fairly easy, I parked for free on a side street about two blocks away.
Detail of topmost roof
This place totally identifies itself with its elephant!!
In 1970 Lucy joined the National Register of Historic places (and so could get grants).
Extensive restoration work was necessary and in 1974 the public could once again tour Lucy.
Lucy requires a lot of maintenance, which the gift shop is not able to cover.
They have a website, and fortunately for all you elephant and architecture lovers, they accept donations!
You can be a Lucy Elefriend too: