MARGATE, N.J. (CBS) – Lucy the Elephant has been a fixture in Margate for well over a century. As she gets ready to celebrate her 137th birthday, we look at how she grew to become such an iconic attraction.
“She’s one of the most popular pachyderms on the planet. People travel from all over the globe to see her,” said Richard Helfant, executive director and CEO of Lucy the Elephant. “In fact, we had visitors here this morning from Australia, and they come because of her folly because she’s so unique.”
“I was here as a child, a Jersey girl, but now I live in Florida with my four children so now I’m bringing them to see Lucy,” said one excited visitor.
Rachel Ginsburg and her family routinely visit from Maryland.
“We make sure we come every single time we’re up here,” she said.
Lucy means a lot to her daughter for a couple of reasons.
“One, my name is Lucy and two, I love coming down here because it’s a huge elephant. What’s not to love?” said Lucy Ginsburg.
And Lucy definitely gets lots of love, drawing 135,000 visitors each year.
“She’s a national historic landmark. She is the oldest roadside attraction in America. Few people know she’s actually older than the Statue of Liberty, and older than the Eiffel Tower,” explained Helfant.
So how did this giant elephant end up in Margate?
“She was built in 1881 as a gimmick by Philadelphia developer, James Lafferty,” said Helfant.
Lafferty hoped to entice visitors from Atlantic City so he could sell real estate, but Lafferty didn’t have much success.
He sold it to the Gertzen family who kept Lucy until deciding to sell their land to the developer of a condominium.
By that time she was badly damaged, condemned and scheduled to be demolished. That’s when a group of citizens came to her rescue, finding a new home for her just two blocks away.
“They lobbied for this land, they raised the money, they formed this nonprofit and miraculously they pulled it all together and moved her on July 20, 1970,” explained Helfant.
She was restored and reopened to visitors in 1974 where she’s been busy building memories ever since.
“When I was little my parents used to take me and my sisters here,” said one visitor.
“I can’t wait to go and see how its changed and see it through my children’s eyes,” another person said.
“It is a beautiful landmark that’s wholesome and something new and different and just makes children’s faces light up every time they come in,” said Ginsburg.
“Woah, we’re up top guys, we can see everything up here,” said an excited little fan.
“There are lots of statues and parks and museums and other historic sites, but there’s nothing quite like Lucy anywhere on the earth,” said Helfant.
And you can help Lucy celebrate her special day. The party will be held this Sunday and it runs from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
There will be games and plenty food, including pretzels, popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream and there will be some birthday cake, too.