Lucy the Elephant, a Margate, New Jersey-based attraction whose claim to fame is being the world's largest elephant and the oldest roadside attraction in the United States, will soon open its doors to overnight guests for the first time in over 100 years.
Save Lucy Committee, the nonprofit responsible for Lucy's continued existence, has partnered with Airbnb to provide three couples the chance to book one-night stays inside the wooden and metal structure in mid-March.
The experience will strive to provide as authentic an opportunity as possible to take guests back in time to the early 20th century, when Lucy last served as a vacation home. Airbnb has both purchased and rented antique Victorian-era furniture to make Lucy -- which currently provides daily tours as a National Historic Landmark -- come back to life as a beachside rental.
"The only way to describe this is a meeting of the minds," said Liz Fusco, the senior communications manager for the US East division of Airbnb. "They were looking to get in touch with us just as quickly as we were with them. We wanted to work together to bring Lucy together on the platform."
However, Lucy's future isn't to become a vacation haven. It'll only be available for three days - March 17, 18 and 19 - and each couple will get to stay for $138, in honor of Lucy's age in years.
Richard Helfant, the executive director and CEO of the Save Lucy Committee, said the goal of the proposal is both to raise awareness and funding for necessary renovations.
"Right now, we're faced with a major renovation project, starting this spring," he said. "Lucy's been painted so many times that her skin is at a point where it bubbles off. We're at a time where we have to strip her down to the bare metal, prime and repaint. It's a massive undertaking."
Any money Lucy raises through tours is already slated for spending on that project, which could cost $500,000 and take two years to complete, Helfant said. Airbnb is also making a substantial donation to the project.
By Fusco's admission, Lucy is Airbnb's first elephant and first animal available to renters. According to the official Lucy the Elephant website, it'll also be the first - and, so far, only - National Historic Landmark to host Airbnb rentals.
The three couples - who will be decided on a first-come, first-serve basis once the portal opens for rental bookings on March 5 at noon - will receive an experience including a private, personally guided tour by Helfant and the mayor of Margate, Michael Becker.
Guests will also receive a private dinner at a local restaurant and then be taken to Lucy for their stay. A tour guide will be on hand in the gift shop the entire night, whether to answer questions or to preside over any possible problems. The couples will conclude their stay with breakfast provided to them inside Lucy before checking out.
The stay will provide visitors with access to all parts of Lucy, including the riding carriage rooftop that looks over the beach more than six stories above the ground, weather permitting.
Inside, the elephantine structure will be outfitted with bedrooms on the bottom floor and a kitchen and dining area on the top floor, just as it was in 1902. Vintage editions of Victorian-era games, such as checkers and chess, will be available to guests to play, along with a cart filled with snacks specifically from Margate and the surrounding area.
Mayor Becker said he was "pleasantly surprised" when approached with the news of Lucy's opening as a short-term rental.
"Lucy gives us the opportunity to expand our marketing," he said. "I would bet there's thousands of people who never heard of Margate and Lucy. Hopefully, they will after this. Some of them, we'll pique their interest and (they'll) come down and visit with us."
Furthering Lucy's legacy
Helfant explained Lucy's role as a prominent figure during Prohibition, a host to President Woodrow Wilson and as a tavern before becoming a tourist attraction. Lucy's opportunity to host guests serves as a mutual aid to adding to her legacy.
"There's a uniqueness to Lucy," Helfant said. "She's a 138-year-old building that's a National Historical Landmark and oldest roadside attraction in the United States. It's a once-in-a-lifetime unforgettable experience for three lucky couples."
For those who don't get the chance to spend the night inside Lucy the Elephant, they still have the chance to get to know her - and Margate.
"We're here, five minutes from Atlantic City, two hours from New York and the (Airbnb) exhibit is on display now," Helfant said. "People who aren't able to book or are unavailable and want to see what she looked like, come on down. Atlantic City's open, we're open and we welcome everybody."
Fusco said Airbnb's goal, just like Lucy's, is to serve the public.
"We're happy to provide this access and create this new chapter in Lucy's history," she said.