The Suitcase Lady


April 21, 2020, 9:13 pm

Elephants do not usually morph into Airbnbs. But this recently occurred in New Jersey, a place of much wonderful weirdness.

I have been a fan of Lucy, the Margate, New Jersey elephant for many decades. Having spent 28 years as a Historic Preservation Commissioner, I believe in saving the best of our past…and that includes buildings shaped like elephants.

Lucy is a centenarian. She was the brainchild of real estate speculator, James V. Lafferty, who built her as an advertising gimmick to sell his lots along the Jersey Shore just south of Atlantic City.

Construction of this 65 foot high, 60 foot long pachyderm was begun in 1881 and cost over $25,000. Lucy was constructed from almost one million pieces of wood, 200 kegs of nails, 4 tons of bolts and iron bars and 12,000 feet of tin for her “skin”.

Down through the years, Lucy has served as a restaurant, tavern, business office and rentable summer cottage. And then, for many years, she stood alone by the ocean falling victim to the ravages of winds and weather. By the 1960s, she was marked for demolition.

Luckily, outraged citizens of Margate formed a “Save Lucy Committee”, raised money for her restoration and promised to move the girl to a new lot on Atlantic Avenue. On July 20, 1970, the 90 ton refurbished Lucy made her move on a trailer pulled by a truck. Every year since, the town has a birthday party for her on the Saturday closest to July 20th.

Lucy still graces the beach, receiving over 132,000 visitors a year. They enter through a door in her left hind foot and ascend a narrow spiral staircase to her belly. In addition, Lucy is now listed as an Airbnb. She was to have welcomed her first overnight guests since 1902 this past St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus caused those plans to be canceled. But any girl who has survived 138 years will weather this storm as well.

Save up 138 dollars, if you would like to sleep inside an elephant.

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