The Elephantine Colossus, otherwise known as the Colossal Elephant or the Elephant Colossus, or by its function as the Elephant Hotel, was a tourist attraction located on Coney Island that was built in the shape of an elephant. An example of novelty architecture, the seven-story tall structure designed by James V. Lafferty stood above Surf Avenue and West 12th Street from 1885 until 1896, when it burnt down in a fire. During its lifespan, the thirty-one room building acted as a hotel, concert hall, and amusement bazaar.
It was the second of three elephants built by Lafferty, preceded by Atlantic City's Lucy the Elephant and followed by The Light of Asia in Cape May.
At 150 feet tall, The Coney Island Elephant was over twice the size of Lucy the Elephant. Its legs were 18 feet in diameter, with the front legs serving as a cigar store while the back legs held the entrance, a circular stairway. Construction cost a quarter million dollars. It was said to be the first artificial structure visible to immigrants arriving to the United States.
Rooms and attractions
Originally intended to serve as a hotel, the elephant contained novelty stalls, a gallery, a grand hall, and a museum in what would be the elephant's left lung. The elephant's eyes contained telescopes and acted as an observatory for visitors. Its manager claimed to see, from the elephant's back, Yellowstone Park, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris.
As Coney Island became more established as a center of tourism and leisure, the elephant began to serve as a brothel as well. When the elephant caught fire on September 27th, 1896, it had not been used for several years.