July 29th, 2007 at 8:37 am
Lucy the Elephant is a six-story elephant-shaped architectural wonder constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1882 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey. Here is the amazing photo history of Lucy. (w/pics)
Lucy the Elephant, built in 1881
James Vincent de Paul Lafferty, Jr., was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1856 of prosperous Irish immigrant parents from Dublin, Ireland. Lafferty, and his wife, Mary Cecelia Tobin, had five children, two of whom died in their childhood. Surviving were Mazie, James III, and the youngest son, Robert.
Lafferty, who grew up to be an engineer and inventor, came into possession of a number of sandy lots in the South Atlantic City area. They were cut off from the frame houses and mule-drawn street cars of Atlantic City, by a deep tidal creek. Only at low tide could anyone make his way down to the sands of his properties.
Most of South Atlantic City at that time was a combination of scrub pine, dune grass, bayberry bushes and a few wooden fishing shacks.
Once Lafferty hit upon the Elephant idea he enlisted the aid of a Philadelphia architect named William Free to design this unusual structure he felt would attract visitors and property buyers to his holdings.
The Elephant was constructed in 1881 by a Philadelphia contractor at a reported cost of $25,000, which at the time was a considerable amount of money. Lafferty always claimed that before the work was finished the cost Skyrocketed to $38,000.
Lucy was restored in 1970
Lafferty, in fact, constructed several elephant-shaped buildings. The first was built at South Atlantic City, which later changed its name to Margate. This 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. The second to be built, the Elephantine Colossus, also known as the Elephant Hotel was built at Coney Island amusement park in Brooklyn, New York. It was 12 stories (122 feet, 37.2 m) tall, with legs 60 feet in circumference. It held a cigar store in one leg and a dioramic display in another, hotel rooms within the elephant proper, and an observation area at the top with panoramic sea views. The Elephantine Colossus was destroyed by fire in 1896. The third, officially the Light of Asia, but dubbed Old Dumbo by locals, was built at Cape May in 1884. It was later torn down: only Lucy survived into the next century.
Lucy was restored in 1970
Does the window make my butt look fat?
View from on top of Lucy
Over the years, Lucy had served as a restaurant, business office, cottage, and tavern (the last closed by Prohibition). Lucy never housed a hotel, which is a popular story but is untrue. It 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.
Inside Lucy the Elephant
Another view inside Lucy
Another view inside Lucy
Closeup of Lucy’s construction
Lucy’s eyes are windows
Lucy’s original eye window
View from Lucy’s eye
Door in Lucy’s leg
Lucy’s original site
Moving Lucy in 1970
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.
Another photo of Lucy’s move in 1970
Lucy’s other relative Elephantine Colossus
was built by James V. Lafferty at Coney Island, N.Y.,
as an attraction for the spot that at the time was the
Disneyland of its era.
Work was started in the spring of 1884. The Elephant, intended strictly as an amusement attraction, is said to have cost $65,000. It measured 122 feet in height and contained seven floors of exhibits and rooms.
Built two years before the Statue of Liberty, the Coney Island Elephant caused considerable excitement. However, it was a financial loss from the beginning.
From the Howdah which topped the structure the visitor had an aerial view of more than 50 miles of ocean, bays and the cities of New York, Brooklyn and Jersey City.
The elephant was divided into 31 rooms, each with its own designation such as Main Hall, Shoulder Room, Throat Room, Stomach Room, etc.
Sixty-five windows took care of ventilation. It was illuminated by 25 electric lights.
According to notes of J. T. McCaddon, manager, the Elephant contained 3,500,000 feet of lumber, 11,000 kegs of nails, 12 tons of iron bolts and is covered by 57,000 square feet of tin. It took 263 men, 129 full working days to complete.
Located on Surf Avenue, it was just across from the terminals of all the railroad and steamboat lines into Coney Island. In fact, McCaddon bragged that the "New York and Sea Beach RR runs direct to the entrance of the Elephant".
Finally Lafferty sold the structure to a Philadelphia syndicate.
The structure’s worth as an attraction faded as newer ones grew up around it and competed for the visitors’ dollars. From newspaper accounts of the time it became somewhat of a run-down boarding house. By 1896 it was practically a deserted structure.
The original patent on Lucy the Elephant Hotel
The idea of an animal-shaped building was innovative, and in 1882
the U.S. Patent Office granted Lafferty a patent giving him the exclusive right to make, use or sell animal-shaped buildings for seventeen years. Lucy is the oldest example of zoomorphic
architecture, and the largest elephant in the world.
Map to see Lucy
You must be logged in to post a comment.