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A wonderful photograph of the fabled Coney Island Elephant.

(Coney Island) John Johnstone, photographer. The Elephant Bazar [sic], Coney Island

Coney Island, 1889

8 ¼ x 6 ½ inch albumen print, titled in image. Good tones and a crisp image. Near fine condition.

A wonderful photograph of the fabled Coney Island Elephant, the seven-story hotel designed and opened by James V. Lafferty in 1885. Located at Surf Avenue and West 5th Street, the elephant cost $250,000 to build. Lafferty patented zoomorphic architecture—in 1882 the U.S. Patent Office granted him a patent giving him the exclusive right to make, use or sell animal-shaped buildings for 17 years. His first elephant building was Lucy, which still stands at Margate, New Jersey.

Coney’s palatial pachyderm was 122 feet tall, and its legs measured 60 feet in circumference, the whole covered in a coating of blue tin. Inside there were thirty-one rooms of varying shapes and sizes, including a grand hall, a gallery, and a museum. A cigar shop operated out of one leg and a diorama was on display in another. The Stomach Room was a 60 x 35 feet triangle. The Cheek Room offered visitors a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean, literally through the eyes of the elephant. However, for all of its attractions, it was never a moneymaker for the owners and it was sold several times in its short history. Designed as a destination for respectable tourists, the Elephant Hotel became associated with prostitution and finally burned to the ground in 1896, having been unoccupied for several years.