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New York Public Library

Did you know that 100 years ago there used to be a building-sized elephant on Coney Island across the street from the Cyclone? Or, that using our #MapWarper you can georectify (digitally align) historical maps in NYPL's collection to match modern maps? Learn more: #TeachNYPL

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The Coney Island Elephant was a hotel and brothel built in the shape of an elephant, and located on Coney Island. In 1885, the Elephant Hotel, also known as the Elephantine Colossus, was built by James V. Lafferty and was 122 feet high with seven floors and had 31 rooms. The hotel became associated with prostitution. This lead to the phrase “going to see the elephant” being created, to mean going to see a prostitute.

Map of Midtown Manhattan, from 34th Street to 59th Street and from 1st Avenue to 6th Avenue. Manhattan, 1890.