BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For some time, Leslie Smukler had wondered where the statue of Avondale Park’s iconic elephant, Miss Fancy, had gone. Recently, she got her answer.
Miss Fancy was the main attraction at Avondale Zoo–Birmingham’s first public zoo–from 1913 to 1934. Today, Miss Fancy’s popularity lived on through a namesake beer from Avondale Brewing Company and a former restaurant. She even had her own statue in the park for a few months back in 2012 until a drunk driver ran into it. The statue was removed.
For many people in Avondale and nearby neighborhoods, it was the last they heard of the statue. The mystery of the its whereabouts became the latest chapter in the famous elephant’s story. Smukler frequently asked a leader with the Friends of Avondale organization about it.
“And her answer was always the same,” Smukler said. “Nobody knows.”
Last fall, a conversation between that leader and Stanley Robinson, public relations coordinator for the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board, shed some light on the situation. When it came up that the statue was missing, Robinson was told it was actually in storage at Legion Field.
Just like that, the mystery was solved.
A few months and several conversations later, Smukler took her truck and several friends to Legion Field, where they loaded up the statue and took it to Smukler’s home.
“The best part of it was driving her home through the streets,” Smukler said. “And we were trying to figure out: does anybody notice there’s an elephant in the back of my truck?”
According to Smukler, few people initially noticed the statue when she brought it up, but she hopes to give the public another chance soon. On April 15, she’ll parade the statue through Avondale and Forest Park before she drops it off for repairs. She’ll even drop it by people’s homes if they want.
There is a GoFundMe account Smukler created to help pay for repair costs to the statue. Once completed, she’ll have the Miss Fancy statue installed at Avondale Park.
For Smukler, it’s her way of bringing a little joy to the community.
“I thought, in times of COVID, everybody’s quarantined,” she said. “We could throw this elephant back in the park, light her up, make her a fountain, maybe put a smile on a few faces, and you know, let’s get back to normal again.”
However, the statue won’t be put back in its original location. Smukler wants to return it to the 40th Street side of the park where the elephants were kept in the old Avondale Zoo.
Smukler hopes to have the statue installed on June 19.