Monday, August 10, 2009

The Margate Elephant

The Margate Elephant is a six-story elephant-shaped architectural folly constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1882 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey, two miles (3.2 km) south of Atlantic City, in an effort to sell real estate and attract tourism. The structure, whose original name was "Elephant Bazaar", was dubbed "Lucy the Elephant" in 1900. She stands 65 feet (19.7 m) high, 60 feet (18.3 m) long, and 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, weighs about 90 tons, and is made of nearly one million pieces of wood. She was sold to new owners in 1887.

Over the years, Lucy had served as a restaurant, business office, cottage, and tavern (the last closed by Prohibition). A popular story is that Lucy once housed a hotel but this is untrue. Lucy had fallen into disrepair by the 1960s and was scheduled for demolition. She was moved and refurbished as a result of a "Save Lucy" campaign in 1970 and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

According to the official history of Lucy published by the Save Lucy Committee, in 1969 Edwin T. Carpenter and a group of Margate citizens formed the Margate Civic Association, which eventually under Josephine Harron and Sylvia Carpenter become the Save Lucy Committee. They were given a 30-day deadline for relocation, or be solely responsible to demolition and removal costs. Money was raised by various fund-raising events, with the most successful being a door to door canvass by volunteers. She was moved and refurbished in 1970 and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Lucy was struck by lightning for the first time in Spring 2006; the tips of the tusks became blackened.

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