Lucy the Elephant
Margate City, New Jersey
Lucy is the world's largest elephant, and the only one in America designated as a National Historic Landmark.
She was built in 1881 by James V. Lafferty, a real estate developer with a knack for promotion. Standing six stories tall, weighing 90 tons, covered with 12,000 square feet of sheet tin, Lucy was more than an object of awe -- she was a functioning building, serving first as a real estate office, as a summer home, even briefly as a tavern, until unruly drunks nearly burned her down. She also gave people a reason to come to Margate City while Lafferty gave his real estate pitch.
Lucy proved very useful. Jim L. made a bundle and went on to build other elephants in Cape May and Coney Island. Sadly, only Lucy has survived.
She nearly didn't. By the late 1960s, Lucy was an abandoned wreck on the verge of collapse. Happily, the citizens of Margate banded together and raised money to restore the proud pachyderm to her former glory. Now, thousands of visitors each summer tour Lucy's innards and buy post cards in her gift shop.
For a small admission fee, the adventuresome can tour Lucy's innards, entering via a spiral staircase in one of her hind legs. See a video and some photographic displays of Lucy history. The tour climaxes with a stop in the open-air "howdah" atop Lucy's back. From here, one is offered a breathtaking view of neighboring high-rise condos, the parking lot, and the Atlantic Ocean. Still, her creator would be pleased at what Lucy started; an acre of beachfront in Margate City now commands seven figures.