Tired of staying at Shore houses each year that sort of all blend together in your memory? Now, a lucky few can have a one-of-a-kind experience staying inside a famous giant elephant.
Lucy, one of the oldest examples of a building in the shape of an animal, is one of the first National Historic Landmarks to appear on Airbnb. In a special promotion, the beloved six-story wooden elephant will be available for one-night stays on March 17, 18, and 19 only. Two adults per night can book a stay at airbnb.com/lucy starting at noon on March 5, first come, first served. Children aren’t allowed.
A stay will cost $138 per night, in honor of the 138 years Lucy has been welcoming visitors to the Jersey Shore town.
Airbnb and the Save Lucy Committee, the nonprofit that restored and looks after Lucy and manages her social calendar, reached out to each other at the same time with the idea to add Lucy to the list. Airbnb sent a team a few weeks ago.
“They fell in love with her. ’Cause how could you not?” said Rich Helfant, executive director of the Save Lucy Committee.
Helfant, whose voicemail tells callers to “have an elephant-astic” day, has been volunteering for Lucy for more than 50 years and will host those who stay.
The Margate landmark originally was built to attract real estate buyers to the area. Each year, more than 130,000 people visit the elephant, which is typically open for tours and events. She hosted President Woodrow Wilson. She was a tavern for one season in 1903, until several kerosene fires put an end to that. She’s been the site for weddings and bat mitzvahs and a run for president. Lucy held a Valentine’s Day dinner for 13 couples this month, complete with a harpist.
As Margate Mayor Mike Becker told The Inquirer in 2018, “Lucy is Margate.”
“Anything we can do to promote the city, we’re very much in favor of,” he said Wednesday.
Lucy’s 50-year lease on the city-owned land where she stands was set to expire at the end of 2019, but Margate officials approved a 20-year lease for Lucy to stay put, ending speculation about the elephant’s fate. The lease will renew automatically every five years.
Staying in Lucy should appeal to lovers of roadside Americana, as well as elephants, Airbnb spokesperson Liz DeBold Fusco said.
“She just really inspires your imagination. She’s just so charming. Everyone has fond memories of her,” she said. ”Theoretically, there is an audience of millions of people around the world who love Lucy” and would want to spend the night.
Lucy hasn’t hosted overnight guests since 1902, when a British family of six called her home for the summer. In a nod to the time, Airbnb transformed the elephant’s interior, which was largely empty, into a Victorian cottage, with period-specific wall art and furnishings and Oriental rugs.
There’s a lounge area and queen-size bed. Some local art and mirrors adorn the inside walls of Lucy’s belly, which has heat and air-conditioning. Guests can dine at the table in her head. They can gaze at the beach through the windows of Lucy’s eyes and sides or from the riding carriage on top of her back.
But one thing Lucy doesn’t have is a bathroom. So Airbnb is renting a trailer with a toilet, sink, and shower that will be parked at Lucy’s side.
Helfant knows there will be lots of interest in sleeping over, but he said the committee doesn’t intend to turn Lucy into another Shore rental.
“Our intent was to find a vehicle to help create further awareness of Lucy and spread the word beyond” surrounding Jersey Shore towns, he said.
Airbnb is making a “substantial donation” to the Save Lucy Committee toward ongoing preservation, said Helfant, who along with Airbnb declined to disclose the amount. The gift during the Shore’s off-season is “very welcome,” he said.
The donation will go toward a major renovation. Lucy’s many layers of paint must be stripped down to the tin that covers her wooden structure so she can be repainted. It’s set to cost a cool half-million dollars.
The committee has no plans to open Lucy for more overnight rentals beyond the three days in March.