Margate: Lucy Ready for Her Unveiling. Become an Angler on the Pier. Down Beach in the Garden.


All photos by R.C. Staab

Margate City is the official name but it's just like Ventnor City, people lop off the "city" part and call it Margate.


Almost before anyone built a permanent structure in what is now Margate, there was the Lucy the Elephant rising six stories tall over the Jersey Shore. As with so many other national and local landmarks, Lucy the Elephant was built by developers seeking to attract visitors and property owners to empty, sandy lots near the Atlantic Ocean. While many such novelties were destroyed by fire, hurricane or neglect, the structure, originally constructed of lumber and tin, has been in need of a make-over.


A $2 million renovation is underway that replaces the outer skin and rotted wood underneath. A new, rust-resistant skin is being put on along with a new floor on Lucy’s howdah (the top overlook space) and the two doors in her back legs are also being replaced. Lucy will be repainted in her original colors; starting in January, some internal plaster will be repaired and repainted.


Scaffolding surrounding one of Lucy's feet.

Carefully, the scaffolding should be removed next month to be replaced by a temporary shroud. According to Executive Director Richard Helfant an unveiling should happen around Labor Day and Lucy again will be in her prime.


In the meantime, you can walk inside Lucy to experience what it was like to tour Lucy when she was built in the late 1800s. The gift shop is also open.

Photographer prior to scaffolding

Most people recognize Lucy from walking or driving by her home on Atlantic Avenue --- one reason she is the oldest roadside attraction in the nation. From the beach, it's a different story. Sandwiched between two hi-rises, Lucy doesn't appear to beach walkers until they are almost in front of her. And it's not the charming Lucy who is getting a drink from a bucket near her home. Rather, she is staring out to sea, ready as if to challenge anyone who threatens her domain as the Queen of Absecon Island.

Margate Water Tower

Pier support

Of three privately owned fishing piers over the water along the Jersey Shore, only the Anglers Club of Absecon Island is open for new members.


Through its almost 100 years of existence, the pier has survived storms, hurricanes and fires. But recently, it faced a man-made dilemma. The state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built dunes and extended the beach by 100 feet, limiting fishing to when the tides were high. Because the state intends to keep replenishing the beach every three-to-five years, the Club sought state help

 

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and raised additional funding so that last year, the pier was extended another 300 feet into the water. It may look old, but much of the pier is new.


Club membership is $350 a year plus $25 for a locker. Members are allowed to have an unlimited number of guests per day to share and enjoy the pier and clubhouse at no charge.




Marven Gardens and southern Ventnor Avenue

It may only be a semi-expensive "yellow" property on the Monopoly Board, but the real Marven Gardens has some of the highest price-per-square-foot rates in the state. The name comes from the first syllable in Margate combined the first syllable in Ventnor. Most of the homes were built in the 1920s and 1930s and were infused with money from the housing boom in the 2000s. Today the

Southern section of Ventnor Avenue

the houses have extensive gardens that are well worth taking a detour from an ocean walk.


Note that Marven Gardens is spelled correctly, but the name shows up on the Monopoly Board as Marvin Gardens between the Water Works and the Go to Jail squares and is one of three yellow properties along with Ventnor Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.



Further south along Ventnor Avenue, the road widens and creates two parallel streets names North Ventnor Avenue and South Ventnor Avenue each of which is separate by a beautifully landscaped medial strip. These nine blocks are some of the most beautiful on the Shore, just two blocks from the ocean.

View of Margate to the west from Lucy The Elephant.

How Margate got its name

Originally known as South Atlantic City, in 1869, Margate was chartered as a municipality. The name remained the same for the rest of the century, even after the town to the north chose to take the name Ventnor for the seaside town of the same name in England. Following in the same English vein, South Atlantic City name itself Margate after another English seaside resort of the same name.

Tips for visiting Margate

What's New: Lucy The Elephant renovation almost done. Unveiling soon.

Starring Role: Margate is featured in the movies Stealing Home and Atlantic City.

Access and Parking: The city is directly south of Ventnor. Ventnor Avenue is the main commercial street and thoroughfare. Town signs are small, so it's easy to drive from Ventnor to Margate to Longport without realizing it. Parking is free in most places. Starting at the Ventnor border, the east-west streets are alphabetical from Andover to Wilson streets. There are a few miscellaneous streets after Wilson Street.

Amenities: None None at the beach.

Beaches: Beach badges are required daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Full season badges are $20 for people 12 to 64 years old. People over 65 years old who purchased their badges before May 31 paid $3.50, but now they pay $20. Badges are free for people 11 years older and younger. Badges can be purchased through Viply App or at the beach.


Follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he recounts his 2021 walk of every beach along the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read all updated stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.

 

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