Those of us of a certain age most likely know the old nursery school song, “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down; London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”
But did you know the London Bridge didn’t fall down? That it stands erect and intact…right here in the USA? In Lake Havasu City, Arizona as a matter of fact.
Papa and I learned all about the London Bridge when we visited this attraction in Arizona and took a guided tour cruise up the Colorado River.
Technically, the original medieval London Bridge which spanned the River Thames in London, England, was replaced with a newer bridge way back in 1831. But over time that new bridge started to sink about an inch every eight years or so, apparently because it wasn’t designed to accommodate automobiles.
By the late 1960’s, London Bridge, which had withstood the London Blitz in World War II, (you can still view the shell marks on the bridge) was determined to be non-repairable and ill-suited for modern traffic. Makes sense that an old narrow, sinking bridge couldn’t withstand all that traffic.
But instead of demolishing it, the City of London decided to try to sell London Bridge. Can you imagine? Selling an old bridge? Who in the world would buy such a thing?
That’s when the founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona came along.
Millionaire Robert McCulloch, known for making his money from oil, motor, and chainsaw companies, had previously purchased thousands of acres of desert around a lake created by a dam on the Colorado River. He envisioned making the community he founded there a resort for tourists. Other than the lake, he needed some other kind of attraction to entice visitors to Lake Havasu City.
So why not the London Bridge? McCulloch won the bid for the bridge in 1968 at the tune of $2.46 million. Our tour guide disclosed that to arrive at the winning bid McCulloch doubled the estimated $1.2 million cost of dismantling the bridge in England to $2.4 million and then added $60,000 more, which he determined was a thousand dollars for each year of his age by the time the bridge would be reconstructed in Lake Havasu City.
So how do you move an entire 1000-foot span from one continent to another across an ocean? Prior to dismantling, each granite block of the bridge was numbered with arch span, row number, and position noted.
Once disassembled and packed in shipping crates, the bridge journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and northward on the Pacific Ocean arriving in California. It was then trucked to Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
By the time the bridge was assembled, reinforced to accommodate traffic, and dedicated in 1971, the cost ended up being close to $7 million. That was one expensive tourist attraction!
McCulloch was considered a bit crazy to undergo such an expense, but it paid off. Today, London Bridge and Lake Havasu City is a well-known tourist spot in this area of Arizona. The town itself has grown tremendously and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.
Strolling along the bridge, visiting the shops in the “English Village” situated alongside the water, taking a ferry across the Colorado River to the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation in California for a delicious dinner, and taking a two and a half hour cruise up the river to view some fantastic scenery were some of the highlights in this desert town.
We never would have suspected a whole new world right there in the middle of the desert. And we were so grateful to have taken our southwest trip with a little bit of British influence added in. Of course, the best aspect was sightseeing with family members we dearly love.
Our venture into the desert proved to be an exciting way to leave our drab and long wintry world back in February for a completely different one. Transformation and adventure complete. (I’ll share more photos from this part of our trip this week.)
“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” ~Irving Wallace