A Lucy Connection with PNJ’s Jack Abgott

Lucy is a National Historic Landmark and is significant as a representative example of the zoomorphic vernacular style, according to architectural historian G.E. Kidder-Smith.  Designed by James V. Lafferty and constructed in 1881 as a marketing tool for the architect’s nearby real estate venture, the building has been used as a restaurant, residence, tavern, and museum. It was moved one hundred yards in 1976 by the Save Lucy Committee (SLC) following threats of demolition. SLC has spearhead all restoration activities pertaining to Lucy and runs it as a historic site and tourist attraction. A 2022 NJ Historic Trust Capital Preservation Grant will help fund the completion of exterior and interior restoration. (Posted by the NJHT)

Lucy illuminated at night

Jack Abgott, PNJ member, and Board Member, had the great fortune to be the project manager on a couple of NJHT grant projects at Lucy (1999-2000). He oversaw both exterior repairs and the interior restoration. Over his career, Abgott restored hundreds of National Register properties and dozens of National Historic Landmarks. Whenever someone asks him what his favorite project was, his answer is unequivocal – it is LUCY!

Besides its uniqueness and his own soft spot for follies, working on Lucy was a non-stop anatomical pun. When he first worked there, they had to open the belly because internal moisture had deteriorated much of the structure. So there Abgott is, looking up at a gaping belly and talking to Josephine Harron who was then the President of the SLC. Soaked, moldy, and rotten wood is literally falling out and is all over the ground. Josephine turns to Abgott and says “At her age I guess it’s about time she got a hysterectomy.”

Lucy is still his favorite project and that is still his favorite Lucy anecdote. Abgott loves being able to call himself a leading expert in elephant building restoration – and we love that too!

Lucy is a singular architectural folly. Although her two sibling elephant buildings passed away long ago, Lucy represents all that is wonderful and odd about America. We all hope this latest project ensures her continued well-being for generations.