By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – After 50 years residing at 9200 Atlantic Ave., Margate’s beloved pachyderm, Lucy the Elephant is getting a new address.
Before you jump off the deep end thinking Lucy the Elephant is moving out of Margate, you should know that she is staying put. The new address is really a fitting tribute to the iconic structure on her 139th birthday and the 50th anniversary of her historic move to the beachfront park at Decatur and Atlantic avenues, where she keeps a watchful eye on beachgoers.
The Board of Commissioners Thursday, July 2 approved a resolution renaming the 100-block of Decatur Avenue “Lucy Plaza.” Her new address will be 100 S. Lucy Plaza, said Richard Helfant, executive director of the Save Lucy Committee, Inc., which was established in 1970 to save what had become a decayed remnant of the city’s earliest days.
Lucy was built in 1881 as a marketing tool to bring real estate investors to what was then South Atlantic City. She stood a few blocks away on Cedar Grove Avenue. Over the years, Lucy was used as a tourist attraction and even served as a summer home for a wealthy family.
Over the years, the weather took a toll on her and she was slated for demolition until a group of concerned citizens stepped up to save her from the wrecking ball. They established a committee, went door-to-door to raise money for her restoration, and embarked on a daring adventure to move her to her current location and restore her to her former glory. Amazingly, Lucy survived the move and has undergone several restorations. She is now 139 years old, on the National Historic Register, and efforts are underway to strip her down to her bare metal sheathing, treat the metal to prevent rust, and give her a new coat of paint. This latest restoration will cost $500,000.
Although the resolution will allow the city to install a new street sign beneath the one that marks Decatur Avenue, it will take a new ordinance to officially change the street name.
According to Commissioner John Amodeo, the city will contact Lucy’s neighbors to determine if they approve of officially renaming the street before an ordinance is introduced. If approved, the ordinance would allow the city’s tax assessor to change the city’s tax maps and records to reflect the new street name, inform the U.S. Post Office to deliver mail to the new address, and allow the Atlantic County Clerk to change the address on Lucy’s recorded deed.
Helfant said the Save Lucy Committee and city officials will unveil the new street sign at a special ceremony 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 20, an arbitrary date selected years ago to celebrate Lucy’s birthday.
“No one knows Lucy’s real birthday, so we designated July 20 as her birthday because that’s the day she took her historic move to Decatur Avenue,” Helfant said.
Although the Save Lucy Committee was planning a three-day celebration this summer to mark her historic move 50 years ago, including a huge parade, concert at an Atlantic City casino, and an on-site carnival, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the committee to scrap those plans and come up with a new, more reserved way to celebrate.
Renaming the street Lucy Plaza is one of the new ways to mark her life-saving adoption by the Save Lucy Committee.
Instead, the committee will recreate another iconic institution that once stood a half-block away at the corner of Washington and Atlantic avenues to help raise money for her upkeep.
Helfant said the committee would recreate “Lenny’s Hot Dog Stand” as a fundraiser for Lucy’s restoration.
He contacted the owners of the last remaining Lenny’s Hot Dogs store in Feasterville, Pa., which will provide mounds of pepper hash, hot dogs, and corn on the cob – enough to last two days of Lucy’s scaled back birthday weekend.
“There will be no parade, but we will have the parking lane on Atlantic Avenue cleared so people can drive by and bring Lucy a birthday gift, hopefully in the form of cash,” Helfant said. “It will be like the drive-by parades being held to celebrate birthdays and graduations during the pandemic.”
Following the unveiling Monday morning, the Save Lucy Committee will hold a champagne brunch on the beachside deck adjacent to the park. Many special guests, including all the mayors of Absecon Island, are invited to the soiree.
“We will be changing our letterhead and marketing materials to the new address. It will be a fitting tribute to Margate’s oldest and grandest resident. She should have her own street,” Helfant said.
Lucy is now open for the summer season seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tours will be held with reduced capacity – 24 people, down from 50 – and frequency to allow time for all surfaces to be sanitized between tours. Helfant said Lucy is deep cleaned every week using a special sanitizing fogger.
The Gift Shop also has reduced the number of people allowed to enter at any one time to eight people. Visitors must wear a mask indoors.
Helfant said the Gift Shop is selling bottles of Lucy Hand Sanitizer and starting Monday, July 5, visitors can purchase a Lucy mask for $9.99, which is sure to become a memorable souvenir of the summer of 2020.
Learn more about her at lucytheelephant.com.
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