A famous landmark
in the town of Margate, New Jersey
, just south of Atlantic City
, billed as "the only remaining example of zoomorphic architecture
left in the United States
". "Lucy" is the nickname of an elephant
-shaped wooden building, standing about 65 feet high (not counting the howdah
on its back) on the Jersey shore
, facing the ocean, and weighing about 90 tons. The interior, accessed via one of two spiral staircase
s in the hind legs, holds a museum
detailing Lucy's history.
Lucy was built in 1881 by James Lafferty, Jr., an engineer and inventor from a wealthy immigrant family who owned some property in South Atlantic City. Lafferty had the bright idea to build a giant elephant on the shore, and hired William Free, an architect from Philadelphia, to design the building. A Philadelphia contractor was hired to do the actual construction, which cost about $25,000 (a fair sum in the late 19th century). Lafferty made a fortune selling real estate in the area, but eventually had to sell his properties. Lucy wound up being sold to Anthony Gertzen, a Philadelphia businessman.
The Gertzen family would go on to play an important role in Lucy's history. Gertzen's third son, John Gertzen, bought the building from his mother, and was the first to hold tours through the building. John's wife, Sophia, is credited with giving the elephant the name "Lucy", though accounts differ as to the exact origin of the name.
Over the years, Lucy was used variously as a summer home, a tavern, and a tourist attraction. She was heavily damaged several times over the years; Lucy had to be moved up the shore after a storm in 1903 caused her to sink partly into the beach, she was nearly burned down in 1904, and her original howdah was torn down in another storm in 1929 and had to be replaced.
After Sophia's death in 1963, her children looked after the business until 1970, when they donated Lucy to the city of Margate. At the time, Lucy was in a state of disrepair, and the Margate Civic Association (founded the year before) felt obliged to save the building. They convinced the town council to move Lucy to a vacant property a few blocks down the street. After some legal hassles, they got their way, and on July 20th, 1970, Lucy was moved to her new home.
Efforts began to raise money to restore Lucy, and the Save Lucy Committee sent an application to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Despite financial difficulties, Lucy was eventually restored, and reopened to the public in the summer of 1974. Two years later, her application for the NRHP was recognized, and Lucy the Margate Elephant officially became a national historic landmark.
Source: The Official Site of Lucy the Elephant- http://www.lucytheelephant.org/