Reluctantly, after so many failed “roadside architecture” adventures, I added the “museum” of Lucy the Elephant to our list for our Atlantic City. Kimmer was excited, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Soon I realized, this was not your average museum, and definitely a key piece of roadside history.
Lucy, the six-story elephant has been a New Jersey staple for over a century. Originally built by James V. Lafferty in 1882 to help sell real estate in Margate City, New Jersey area, Lucy was unable to draw in business as expected and had to be sold off.
In 1900, the mammoth elephant received her nickname Lucy the Elephant from her owner and quickly became a key element of Atlantic City’s skyline. Throughout the coast, she was duplicated – in Coney Island and in Cape May – but somehow, the original is the only survivor. She has served as a residence (for only one season) as well as a tavern, business office and restaurant.
In the 1960s, Lucy fell into disrepair and the city had plans to put her down to make room for condominiums. But in 1970, a group of local individuals formed the “Save Lucy” campaign and they raised enough money to move and restore the mammoth. That same year, Lucy the Elephant was designated as a National Historical Landmark, guaranteeing that Lucy would be around for many years to come.
The coolest part is that you can tour the belly of the beast with a guide every hour for only $7. The tour begins with a walk up her leg and into her large wide open belly. Once there we watched the obligatory short video about the elephant’s history and restoration efforts. Then we got to look through Lucy’s glass eyes to the Jersey shore. The tour concludes at the hoda atop her back for 360 degree view of the shore from Margate’s Lucy-themed water tower to Atlantic City and across the ocean.
We are so glad we experienced this long standing tradition in New Jersey. While their website can be frustrating, click here to check it out if only for amusement.