Lucy, the Margate Elephant

South of Atlantic City, New Jersey is the community of Margate. Here you will find a 65-foot tall elephant constructed of wood and tin and affectionately called “Lucy.” This six-story pachyderm was built in 1881 by James Lafferty (1856-1898), a real estate promoter and engineer. Lafferty believed that this massive piece of architecture would lure potential land buyers to his beachfront property. A “howdah” was added onto the elephant’s back as an observation platform from which prospective buyers could view the beauties of the sea-skirted landscape. So solidly was Lucy built that this structure has survived every Atlantic hurricane for the past 123 years.
Lafferty decided to have his elephant patented and addressed the U.S. Patent Office as follows: “ My invention consists of a building in the form of an animal’s body of which is floored and divided into rooms, closets, etc. and the legs contain the stairs which lead to the body…”. The Patent Office studied the plans for Lucy with those of the Statute of Liberty. On December 5, 1882 U.S. Patent No.268503 was granted to Lafferty for his invention of an improvement in buildings.

For nearly 80 years Lucy was operated as a tourist attraction. Tourists were charged ten cents to climb the 350 steps to the “howdah” on top where they could view the ocean and town below. However, this charge did not begin to cover the cost of maintaining the animal and by late 1960’s the owners offered this huge structure to the City of Margate with the stipulation that it be moved. The local residents accepted the offer and raised money to have Lucy moved two blocks to a city park. Over the past thirty years additional monies have been donated to completely renovate both the interior and exterior. On April 1, 2004 Lucy will again be opened to the public, who will see one of America’s most unusual buildings on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. The next time you are in Atlantic City be sure to drive 4 miles south to 9200 Atlantic Avenue. There you will be greeted (as was I) by a spectacular sight. For $3.00 you can enter a door in the hind legs and climb to the 16-foot wide by 58-foot long room in the body of the elephant. From there another winding stairway leads upward to the 16-foot square platform. If you are unable to make this trip or would have trouble climbing all those steps, you may view Lucy’s photographs and read her complete history by logging onto the Margate Elephant official web site at