Airbnb is a great place to find unique houses to rent for short and long stays. Some have lakes and pools onsite, others boast breathtaking vistas from every window, and others still are rustic cabins in the heart of serene forests. For a very limited time, the site will even let you rent out Lucy the Elephant, a 65-foot-tall wood and metal pachyderm who’s been a star attraction of the Jersey Shore since 1881.
Lucy’s Colorful Past
Lucy has been a permanent symbol of Margate (formerly South Atlantic City) since she was conceived and built by James V. Lafferty, an engineer, real estate entrepreneur, and pioneering animal-shaped building constructor. His initial goal with the project was to lure land developers into buying Jersey shore property. Sure enough, Victorian-era tourists were mesmerized by the giant 90-ton elephant. To seal the deal even more, Lafferty ushered prospective clients six stories up the interior staircase into Lucy’s observation deck so they could get a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
In 1887, Lucy got her name from the Gertzen family, who didn’t care for her original moniker of “Elephant Bazaar.” She was quickly transformed into a tavern, and, after that, a summer home for a British doctor and his family. The Gertzens retained ownership of Lucy until 1970, when they kindly bestowed her to the Save Lucy Committee.
Lucy has likely served more purposes over the last 138 years than any other offering on Airbnb. In addition to being used as a tavern and private beach bungalow, Lucy has also been a real estate office, and of course, a popular tourist attraction. The inimitable elephant is also tough and resilient, enduring two relocations, a fire, lightning strikes, hurricanes, floods, break-ins, and lots of general neglect.
In 1969, Lucy faced the worst fate of her life. Her exterior was devastated by years of ruthless marine weather, which made tourists flock to relatively newer attractions. The owners decided to sell the landmark, but the buyers only wanted the land she was on. Subsequently, she was condemned by authorities, and her demolition seemed imminent.
Word quickly spread of the plans to destroy Lucy, and the Save Lucy Committee was promptly formed. Together, its members raised enough money to move Lucy to a site owned by the city, soon to become a park. The funds raised by the Save Lucy Committee also paid for Lucy’s huge renovation.
In 1974, Lucy the Elephant was again ready to be a paid tourist attraction after undergoing four long years of restoration. The Save Lucy Committee oversaw both the building and tours, which reportedly brought in around 132,000 visitors every year. $8.50 bought adults for a 30-minute excursion inside the elephant, complete with highlights from her personal history.
The Airbnb Deal
On March 5th, 2020, Lucy the Elephant was made available for booking on Airbnb. It’s a very limited opportunity, with reservations available for the nights of March 17th, 18th, and 19th and just a two-person maximum occupancy. Prospective guests should be aware that there’s no bathroom inside the elephant, but there is one in a trailer conveniently parked at Lucy’s lovely painted feet. For added safety, a staff member and security guard will occupy an adjoining gift shop during the stay. Guests will also be served breakfast inside Lucy come morning. And for just $138 a night, all that sounds like a pretty good deal. Even better, all of the the humble proceeds from the three overnight stays will be used for future repairs and maintenance.