America’s Oldest Surviving Roadside Attraction

Lucy the Elephant was built in 1882 in what is now Margate, New Jersey. James V. Lafferty had a six-story elephant constructed as a public relations stunt to draw attention, and it sure did. Lafferty probably had no idea his elephant would outlive him and everyone who was there at the beginning.

The idea was to catch folks’ interest with it, and then lure them inside to show off his South Atlantic City properties from the look-out. Once she was completed in 1882, everyone from presidents, to celebs and the Average Joe came to gawk at the “Elephant Bazaar”. The building was composed of about a million pieces of wood, and 12,000 square feet of tin for the exterior.

She towered over present day Margate, New Jersey, at a height of 65ft. The elephant’s eyes contained telescopes and acted as an observatory for visitors. Its manager claimed to see, from the elephant’s back, Yellowstone Park, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris.

Lucy, as a building, has been used for a quite a few different purposes over the years. She was looking her age when a restoration project was launched to save the elephant in 1969. She got a face lift and a new, permanent home. See pictures spanning almost a century of Lucy's life, including her ride down the street at Messy Nessy Chic.

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