February 27, 2020
Those seeking a uniquely Jersey Shore experience may find it in Margate where visitors will have the chance to book a night's stay inside Lucy the Elephant.
Lucy becomes available for AirBnB bookings on March 5, and reservations are available on March 17, 18, and 19. Guests are restricted to one-night stays at the modest price of $138 – because Lucy is 138 years old.
Built in 1881, Lucy the Elephant claims to be the oldest surviving zoomorphic structure in the world. The Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty have been around for less time than her. It was built as a tourist attraction, but the family of a doctor visiting from England did rent it for the summer in 1902 and live there, converting the interior to bedrooms, a kitchen and other living areas.
They will have been the last people to spend the night in Lucy, until next month's guests arrive.
The Save Lucy Committee, the organization dedicated to her preservation, is running the booking with AirBnB, which is donating to the cause in return. It is the only remaining elephant of three similar structures built on the East Coast by James Lafferty, a Philadelphia-based real estate developer.
Richard Helfant, executive director of the group, will stay nearby and guide the AirBnB guests through their unique stay.
"I've been by Lucy's side for 50 years, and she's been a part of so many unique moments," Helfant said in a press release. "I can't wait to show guests what Lucy is all about."
The elephant normally functions as a popular, 6-story-tall, tourist destination, located in the Jersey Shore town about five miles south of Atlantic City. It provides views of the ocean and the nearby city skyline. More than 100,000 paying visitors per year climb the flights stairs to tour Lucy and take in the view from atop her back.
Among the visitors to the historic site, boasted by the Save the Lucy committee, are President Woodrow Wilson and his wife and Henry Ford. The structure doesn't have running water anymore, but it's roomy ceiling and Victorian decorations make up for that. And for the lucky AirBnB guests, there will be a trailer parked outside.
Lucy's exterior resembles elephants used for popular and controversial tourism in places like Thailand. She is outfitted with a "howdah," which is the name of the seat that carries riders.
The Margate community also host a toenail-painting celebration every July for Lucy, where the nail color is chosen by online vote.