Elephant sighting on the beach in Margate, NJ
By Phil Stilon
Margate, NJ - Wild animal sightings have been on the rise in New Jersey. We’ve had baboons and black bears in recent weeks, but today’s news takes the came as an extremely large elephant has been spotted just off the beach in Margate at the Jersey Shore. The elephant has been reported to be 65 feet high and 60 feet long and has a hunger for tourists.
Her name is Lucy, and she’s a 127 year old National Historic Landmark just two miles south of Atlantic City. Lucy now stands at the beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and has become a beloved figure of the Jersey Shore by all who know and have met her.
Lucy was built in 1881 by a land developer who wanted to use the structure as a way to promote his development of South Atlantic City (now Margate), which was largely undeveloped at the time to sell seaside lots to residents in Philadelphia.
However, by 1887, the developer, John Lafferty was stretched too thin and his plans weren’t exactly going as planned and he began unloading many of his assets, including the huge elephant he built and patented in 1881. He sold the oversized elephant to Anton Gertzen and died a few years later in 1897, never to realize the impact his creation would have on the Jersey Shore.
The Gertzen family opened Lucy to the public and charged 10 cents for people to go inside and see the huge elephant by the ocean. In 1900, she was officially named Lucy. The success of Lucy spawned a period of Lucy wannabe’s, but none caught on and none remain today. There was Cape May’s Light of Asia which
dwarfed Lucy, but in a short time the structure had deteriorated and was torn down in 1900.
Then there was the Elephantine Colossus in Coney Island which was a 7 story and 122 foot tall elephant, but was a complete financial failure before it burned to the ground in 1896, just 12 years after it was built.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Lucy was a successful tourist attraction and and was visited by actors, actresses, dignitaries and even presidents. In 1970, the Gertzen family donated Lucy to the city of Margate after 70 years of operating and maintaining her.
By this time, Lucy had fallen ill. She was falling apart and needed reconstructive surgery or she herself might have met the wrecking ball like the other elephants before her.
A fundraising drive was put into action to save Lucy and in 1970, she was moved to her current home and the reconstruction process began. The efforts fell short financially, but in 1971, Lucy was added to the National Register of Historic Places which opened the door to federal grants to finish the restoration process.
$124,000 later, Lucy’s makeover was complete and she was once again opened to the public, remaining pretty much the same for the next 40 years as she is today.
You may feel it’s not enough to make a trip to Margate just to see Lucy, but she’s in very close proximity to the Ocean City Boardwalk, Atlantic City Boardwalk and Storybook Land, so she can very easily be added to any Cape May County day trips. The kids will love her just as much as the adults.
About the Author
Phil Stilton is the managing editor for JTOWN Magazine, Toms River Magazine and GoKids New Jersey. Since 2004, Go Kids NJ has been featuring New Jersey based tourism and family destinations. With over 3,000,000 readers per year, GoKids NJ is one of New Jersey’s top online family tourism and destination hot spots. Phil is a lifelong resident of Ocean County. Visit www.gokidsnj.com for more information.