Margate Elephant - Lucy, Margate City New Jersey
Date added:November 03, 2009 Categories: New Jersey Special and Unique
Lucy the Elephant
 Additional Information
  • Built: 1881
  • Status: Occupied
  • Location: Atlantic Avenue and Decatur Street
  • City: Margate City
  • County: Atlantic
  • State: New Jersey

Built in 1881 by James Vincent de Paul Lafferty Jr, Lucy the Elephant was intended to attract buyers to the building lots Lafferty was offering for sale in the area. It's reported to have cost $25,000 to construct. After falling into financial trouble, Lafferty sold the Elephant and other property to Anton Gertzen in 1887. Lucy is 6 stories tall, weighs 90 tons, and is covered with 12,000 square feet of sheet tin.

In 1902 an English doctor and his family leased the Elephant as a summer home. They moved into Lucy's ample interior and converted the main hall into four bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen and parlor. A bathroom was outfitted in one of the small front shoulder closets using a miniature bathtub.

Lucy was heavily damaged in the storm of 1903 and was standing knee deep in the sand before volunteers helped to dig her out and move her farther back from the sea. Party Then, according to newspaper accounts, Lucy was converted into a tavern. Rowdy drinkers kept knocking over the oil lanterns used for lighting. In 1904 Lucy was nearly burned to the ground as a result of this carelessness. This ended her days as a tavern.

John Gertzen died in 1916, leaving Sophia with two young children to raise and support. To add to the family income, she began a tourist camp which was to become so popular that it required 40 tents to satisfy the demand.

In 1929 a violent storm tore off the howdah, which was later replaced by a less ornate one.

In 1944 a hurricane devastated the Jersey coast. Lucy took a beating but somehow survived. Other nearby properties including the entire Margate Boardwalk were destroyed.

Sophia died in 1963 at the age of 86. Sophia's children, Caroline Bonnelli and Joseph F. Gertzen, continued to run the famous Elephant Lucy as a tourist attraction, a refreshment stand, bathhouses and small rental cottages until 1970. In that year they donated Lucy to the City of Margate, sold the land to developers, and retired to Florida.

In 1969, Edwin T. Carpenter and a group of Margate citizens formed the Margate Civic Association. One purpose of the Association was to find a way to save the decaying old Elephant landmark from demolition, as a developer was negotiating the purchase of the land upon which Lucy stood. The City of Margate owned a piece of vacant beachfront property two blocks south of the Elephant that had been purchased in a public referendum in 1932 for recreation purposes. Mr. Carpenter and members of the association approached the City with the possibility of moving Lucy to this city parkland. Mayor Martin Bloom and Commissioners William Ross and Russell Roney were receptive to the idea providing the city would not be held responsible for any damages that might occur. The owners were pleased to donate the Elephant to the city, hoping Lucy would be preserved, but stipulated "if it falls down" the Civic Association would be responsible for the removal of the Elephant's remains. John A. Milner, AIA, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a nationally known restoration architect, was contacted by the Civic Association to examine the Elephant structure and determine the feasibility of relocation. After careful study Milner and his associates determined that the building was structurally sound and would survive the move. The move was eventually approved and completed.

Lucy was restored between 1971 and 1976 and reopened for tours in 1974.

Read more about Lucy's history at her website.