Lucy the Elephant is a hidden treasure of the Jersey Shore. We made a side trip years ago to see her and were captivated by the structure and its interesting history. More recently, I was going through old photos my mom had given me and found several of her and her parents also atop the pachyderm! She had not mentioned her visit, so I doubt she remembered it, but I have photos to prove we all were there.
Lucy is the only one of three such structures that remains. Built in 1881, the 65-foot high wooden elephant reportedly cost more than $25,000 to build and the idea of an animal-shaped building was patented in 1882. James V. Lafferty conceived of the idea to attract buyers for his property in what was then South Atlantic City. He also built two others, in 1884, the 40-foot Light of Asia in what is now South Cape May (torn down in 1900 due to severe deterioration) and the 122-foot Elephantine Colossus, an amusement attraction at Coney Island NY, at a cost of $65,000. (This elephant had 7 floors and 31 rooms. A financial loss from the very start, it was sold and later burnt down in 1896.)
From 1902 to 1969, Lucy served as a four-bedroom home, a tavern and a tourist camp. She survived fire and hurricanes that destroyed many nearby structures. Since 1916, she has been a popular attraction. Notable visitors include President and Mrs. Wilson and Henry Ford who have paid admission to visit the elephant and climb her 130 steps in her hind legs to the viewing platform on her back.
In 1969, a developer bought the land Lucy sat on and agreed to donate the building to the town with the stipulation that it be moved in 30 days. The cost to make this move to a public park was $24,000 which was raised by donation. The estimate for restoration was $124,000. Work began in 1973 and tours resumed in 1974. Costs to upkeep the structure have been considerable and numerous fundraising campaigns have been launched to care for it. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lucy is currently maintained by the non-profit Save Lucy Committee Inc.
Lucy the Elephant can be found at Josephine Harron Park in Margate, NJ. Tours are given every half hour. It is also available for private events, such as weddings and parties.
The Jersey shore is one of my favorite summer destinations. Though I no longer live in the Garden State, I am and always will be a Jersey girl. Growing up, we lived a car ride away from several New Jersey beaches and spent many weekend hours on the boardwalks or playing in the ocean and sand. As a result, I can say firsthand that they all have their own unique attractions. As a child, I spent the most time on the beach at Seaside Heights, or on the boardwalks of Keansburg or Asbury Park.
I can say that I have several favorites to recommend, depending on what how you want to spend your day. For pure beach time, my hands down favorite is Island Beach State Park. Admission is charged by the carload, and there are fewer rules about what is and isn’t allowed on the beach. Many times I have visited here for the day, and then headed north for some boardwalk time at another favorite, Seaside Heights. Since this is what I consider “my” beach town, I was especially upset when most of it was on fire a couple years ago, and am very happy that it has been rebuilt.
When I have young children along, my favorite beach is Point Pleasant Beach which is just a little further
north. The boardwalk is family friendly and has rides geared toward small children and even an aquarium.
Another great place to enjoy the beach is Sandy Hook State Park, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. It is home to the oldest continually operating lighthouse in the country. Besides swimming, hiking, biking and camping are also offered. The historic Fort Hancock, as well as the lighthouse and other buildings are open to explore. The beach does fill up sometimes, especially on summer weekends. It is unique in that you can easily see both the ocean and bay at certain points.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of Jersey beaches. There are many more both north and south of these mentioned. To the south are the popular Ocean City, Wildwood, Atlantic City and Cape May beaches, and like those I mention, all have their own niche and special appeal. In between all of these are a number of small beach towns where residents mostly enjoy tourist free spots in the sand. New Jersey beaches require a fee to get on the beach (requiring a tag or some other indication that you have paid) and most towns enforce this.