Tag Archives: New Jersey

Lucy the Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The mammoth of Margate

We’ve all heard of the elephant in the room, but how many people can say they’ve been in a room in an elephant? Well, last week I finally joined the ranks of those who can.

There are probably thousands of roadside attractions in the U.S.—some (like the Corn Palace, Paul & Babe, the Blue Whale and Salem Sue) are so iconic they almost transcend the genre. And Lucy might just be the queen of them all.

Lucy the Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Her story is a bit of an odd one. She was built in 1881 by a real estate developer—as Lucy was one of the taller buildings (yes, she is a building, not just a sculpture!) in town, the developer invited prospective customers to climb her staircase and view adjacent property parcels from the houdah (pavilion) at the top. Lucy, of course, became a bigger tourist draw than the local real estate market—her owner even built a much larger copy at Coney Island (Lucy’s big sister burned down in 1896).

Lucy was sold and resold over the years, and the room in her belly served as a residence, a restaurant, a business office, and even a tavern at one point. She survived visiting tourists, rowdy barflies, several remodeling jobs, a tavern fire, and many hurricanes. By the 1960s, though, she was in such a sorry state she was slated for demolition. A group of concerned locals banded together in the 1970s to move her slightly inland and restore her to her original glory—in 1976 she was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The rest, as they say, is history. Now, you know how I’m going to finish this story, right?

Lucy the Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Yep, you guessed it. The end.

Ocean City boardwalk sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Boardwalk empire

Even if the bitterly cold breeze weren’t enough of a clue, I’d know what time of year it was by the fact that the boardwalk was completely empty last week.

Ocean City boardwalk sketch by Chandler O'Leary

While it would have been nice to see the Shore in its summer glory, winter gave me the best chance to see the whole (apparently endless) expanse of wood, uninterrupted as it ran alongside the beach.

Sandy Hook lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Guiding Light

Okay, so the title of this post is not an accident. Apparently this lighthouse actually was a guiding light—on the soap opera of the same name, that is. But I’ll have to take Wikipedia’s word for that one, because vintage soap operas aren’t really my cup of tea.

Sandy Hook lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Vintage lighthouses, on the other hand, are exactly my cup of tea.

Sandy Hook lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And when I found out I was standing inside the oldest working beacon in America? Well, I paid extra close attention.

Sandy Hook lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Sandy Hook Light celebrated its 250th anniversary this weekend. I couldn’t be there for the festivities, but the Tailor and I spent a day at Sandy Hook a few years ago, and I did these sketches then. It was a flawless summer day—not the kind of weather you need a lighthouse for, but certainly the conditions that would show off its best features.

Sandy Hook lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Edison NHP sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Mad science

The Tailor and I had completely different reasons for wanting to visit Thomas Edison’s laboratory. For my part, they had me at “National Park”—and it didn’t hurt that there existed a hilarious song about the place (which, let me tell you, played on repeat in my head for a good month afterward).

Edison NHP sketch by Chandler O'Leary

But the Tailor’s a scientist and a tinkerer at heart, so the century-old chemistry lab spoke to his very soul—

Edison NHP sketch by Chandler O'Leary

—not to mention all the iconic inventions around every corner.

Edison NHP sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Most of the machinery, chemicals and gadgets were incomprehensible to me, but I found myself getting sucked in, too. I absolutely fell in love with the sheer clutter of the place. If they say a messy workspace is a sign of genius…

…well, then clearly, we were in the presence of one of the greats.

Edison NHP sketch by Chandler O'Leary