Chapter 5 – Tourist Camp
John Gertzen died in 1916, leaving Sophia with two young children to raise and support. To add to the family income, she began a tourist camp which was to become so popular that it required 40 tents to satisfy the demand. Others began to copy Sophia’s successful venture until a “Tent City” arose along the waterfront. The City Fathers did not relish the situation and passed an ordinance banning all “Habitation In Tents” on the Margate beaches.
The Pavilion had been leased to a family named Dougherty and operated as a “speakeasy”. It was shut down when the Volstead Act of 1920 became law.
Sophia, undaunted, converted the Pavilion into a rooming house and this plus her 10-cent admission to the famed Elephant became her only source of income. A guest register shows that in 1916 such notables as President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, Vincent and John Jacob Astor, the duPonts of Delaware, Henry Ford and even the Rajah of Bhong and wives from Singapore all visited Lucy and climbed her 130 steps to the howdah on her back.
In 1929 a violent storm tore off the howdah, which was later replaced by a less ornate one.
The Volstead Act (Prohibition) was repealed in 1933 and Sophia again went into the saloon business along with her two children, who were now adults. They renovated the Turkish Pavilion into an old-fashioned beer garden, obtaining license #1 from the City of Margate. It was named the Elephant Cafe. The popularity of the cafe continued through World War II until Sophia’s advancing years prompted her to sell the cafe, but still retaining Lucy the Elephant and the family’s summer home. After several owners, Sophia repurchased the Elephant Cafe and converted it into the Elephant Hotel.
In 1944 a hurricane devastated the Jersey coast. Lucy took a beating but somehow survived. Other nearby properties including the entire Margate Boardwalk were destroyed.
Wreckage of boardwalk following storm of Sept. 1944. Boardwalk was never rebuilt.
A Few Statistics