Lucy the Elephant is a six-story elephant-shaped structure visualised and built by James V. Lafferty, Jr., a land speculator, who felt an unusual structure would attract visitors and property buyers to his holdings at 8 km south of Atlantic City in USA. For 138-year-old Lucy, July 20, 1970 is the most important day in her life, though its not her Birthday. Do you know why?
The elephant, originally named Elephant Bazaar, was constructed in 1881 by a Philadelphia contractor at a reported cost of somewhere between $25,000 & $ 38,000. Lafferty had taken the help of a Philadelphia architect named William Free to design the pachyderm. Lucy The Elephant stands in a feeding position, trunk down. Access to the interior is gained through spiral stairways in the hind legs, one being for the entrance and the other the exit. Entrance stairs lead to a reception room, which is 18 by 18 feet. Other rooms are off this main one. There are 22 windows.
In the construction of this monster, made of wood and metal, it is said that a million pieces of timber and 8,560 ribs or arches, 200 kegs of nails, and four tons of bolts and bars were used. It required 12,000 square feet of tin to cover the structure.
The body is 38 feet long and 80 feet in circumference; the head is 16 feet long and 48 feet in circumference. Lucy’s neck is six feet long and 48 feet in circumference; legs are 22 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. The ears are 17 feet long and 10 feet wide. It is estimated that each weighs 2,000 pounds. Lucy’s tusks are 22 feet long; tail 26 feet and eyes 18 inches in diameter. The latter are made of glass.
Inside the elephant building there is a spiral stairway which will take to howdah or an observatory on the back of the elephant. It is estimated that Lucy can be seen (without use of binoculars) up to eight miles.
In 1970, the new owner of Lucy had planned selling of the land on which elephant had stood for nine decades. The new buyer would have demolished the old elephant and used the land for commercial purposes. The locals came to know about this and they didn’t want to lose the elephant who had become part of the city’s life and landscape. So, they all joined together and decided to move her to a new location and save her. July 20, 1970 was decided to be the ‘moving day’ on which Lucy was to be shifted to new location. Raising resources and overcoming the objections from the new neighbourhood were the new challenges which were successfully tackled by the locals. And on ‘moving day’ Lucy, the 90-tonne structure, was pulled by small truck in the presence of media, TV crew and the hundreds of locals to a place of safety and new location. It took just seven hours to complete the journey.
Lucy the Elephant is one of three such structures designed by James V. Lafferty. It is the only one still intact. A 40-foot wooden Elephant called Light of Asia and 122-foot tall Elephantine Colossus – both of them could survive barely two decades and are now remain in history books only.