Lucy the Elephant undergoes water test in final phase of restoration

A grand reopening is scheduled for mid-December, but the repairs may mean pushing that to January.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Lucy the Elephant undergoes water test in final phase of restoration
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A grand reopening is scheduled for mid-December, but the repairs may mean pushing that to January.

MARGATE, New Jersey -- When an elephant that stands six stories tall needs a shower, it's best to call in the fire department.

Over the past year, Lucy the Elephant has gotten a new metal skin.

Monday's bath, administered by the Margate City Fire Department, was less about cleanliness and more about inspection.

"I saw them spraying Lucy," said 8-year-old Myles Peck of Margate, explaining that the spray-down was to "find out if there are any leaks."

The National Historic Landmark has been under cover throughout the process, but the project is now in the home stretch.

The cover has been lifted and now just scaffolding remains around Lucy.

"Before we started to dismantle the scaffolding, we wanted to make sure it's watertight because obviously, that's why we did it," said Richard Helfant, executive director of Lucy the Elephant.

While firefighters sprayed outside, a team observed from inside the landmark.

The good news: her new skin did not leak.

The bad news: several windows inside did leak, along with the glass panel in the howdah -- (that's the covered seat on Lucy's back).

"We're going to perhaps seal some of the windows shut," said Helfant. "They're going to do better weather stripping on some of the windows, but we have isolated where the windows are leaking and the howdah. We'll get that fixed and get her reopened."

A grand reopening is scheduled for mid-December, but the repairs may mean pushing that to January.

Rachel Downey's young son started watching YouTube videos about Lucy during the restoration.

The whole family came to watch the water test on Monday.

"I didn't know much about her, and now we're just so into the history of her and learning about her and hoping that they can preserve her," said Downey.

The firefighters treated the exercise as a drill.

"When there's a fire, sometimes fires are fought defensively from the outside so this was kind of a simulation of that," said Chief Dan Adams of the Margate City Fire Department.

While Lucy has received some grants to help pay for the restoration, Helfant says they're still about $800,000 short.

Fundraising efforts are still underway and Helfant says Lucy will definitely be open for tours in 2023.

He says those tours are crucial.

Last year, while Lucy was covered, 80% fewer visitors came through to take a modified tour during construction.

Families who gathered to watch Lucy's bath can't wait for their favorite elephant to fully reopen for tours again.

"You feel like a kinship with her because she's part of our town," said Suzanne Peck of Margate. "People say, 'Oh you're from Margate? Oh, that's where Lucy is right?' It's what we're known for here."

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