Lucy the Elephant

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Lucy the Elephant, July 2004
Lucy the Elephant, July 2004

Lucy the 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 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.

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 is unknown, eventually was dubbed "Lucy the Elephant". She stood 65 feet (19.7 m) high, 60 feet (18.3 m) long, and 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, weighed about 90 tons, and was 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.

Over the years, Lucy had served as a restaurant, business office, cottage, hotel, and tavern (the latter closed by Prohibition), but 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.

See also

  • Tillie - another colorful icon of the Jersey Shore
  • Charles Ribart - and his plan for the site of the Arc de Triumphe

External links

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