NJ Trivia–World’s Largest Elephant Scuplture Building

By mark-slade December 13, 2011

The owners and purveyors of Lucy The Elephant, the world’s largest zoomorphic wooden sculpture, claim that no legend of the elephant’s history can match the sight of the sculpture in all of her 65-foot glory from where she now sits astride the Atlantic City Boardwalk. They may be right, though Lucy the Margate Elephant does indeed carry with her a colorful history, in fact she carries not one, but three different accounts of her origins, one of which is described below.

Built in 1881, Lucy The Elephant was designed at the whim of James V. Lafferty, an Irish immigrant and real estate developer who purchased beach property in the South Atlantic City area of Margate City. The sculpture was meant to attract visitors and property buyers to his holdings to increase his already impressive wealth. Lafferty enlisted the help of a Philadelphia architect named William Free to design Lucy The Elephant, sometimes touted as the eighth world wonder.

Lucy The Elephant was completed in 1881 by a Philadelphia contractor at a reported cost of almost $38,000, a veritable fortune in those times. Soon after Lafferty applied for and received a U.S. Government patent to protect his idea from the would-be copy-cats of Lafferty’s eight world wonder.

It wasn’t too many years later that Lafferty found he had over extended himself financially and was forced to offer Lucy The Elephant for sale to a Philadelphia man named Anton Gertzen who purchased her in 1887. It was John Gertzen, the son of Anton, who eventually made use of Lucy The Margate Elephant by charging visitors 10 cents a piece to tour her insides and take in the view from the observatory. In 1902 Lucy The Elephant was even rented out for use as a summer home by an English doctor and his family, and some years later was also utilized as a tavern! During this time Lucy The Margate Elephant endured many hardships, including a hurricane, and was also nearly burned down by a careless patron in her tavern days.

It was in 1970 that Lucy The Elephant Atlantic City was moved to the Atlantic City Boardwalk where she currently resides. In 1974 she was re-opened to the public and was later lovingly restored by Westfield Architects & Preservation Consultants. Lucy The Margate Elephant is now open to the public in all her pachyderm glory. Tours begin every thirty minutes at the top and bottom of the hour, where visitors can wind there way through her 90 ton interior to the top of her observatory and enjoy a stunning view of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and the New Jersey shore. Inside Lucy The Elephant you will find a wonderful gift shop with a variety of fantastic kitsch items for purchase to commemorate your visit to this eighth world wonder.

Over the years, Lucy has been used as a restaurant, office building, cottage and tavern; now that’s what i call a versatile elephant!

Mark Slade
Keller Williams