A lake in Arizona in the United States is perhaps the last place you’d think to find the London Bridge, yet that is exactly where it can be found. The bridge that once sat over the Thames from 1831 to 1967 now sits over Lake Havasu after being taken apart and moved brick by brick to its new home across the pond.
During the 1960’s, it had become clear the London Bridge was slowly sinking as it was unequipped to handle modern traffic and congestion. London Bridge was indeed falling down, again. Surveys had shown that the bridge was sinking at a rate of one inch every eight years. The City of London became resolved to build a new bridge that would be wider and that could withstand increasing car and pedestrian traffic over the bridge.
When it came to deciding what to do with the bridge, Common Council of the City of London member Ivan Luckin has suggested that it be sold. Ivan knew the bridge would not be easy to sell, it was not as interesting or famed as the Medieval bridge it replaced on which houses and shops sat and seemed dull in comparison. Ivan then set out to promote the bridge as a timeless landmark, proclaiming it as “the heir to 2,000 years of history going back to the first century A.D., to the time of the Roman Londinium”. Sure enough Ivan’s sales pitch worked and by April 1968 the Missourian entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch was the proud new owner of the London Bridge for $2,460,000.
Now came the mammoth task of moving the bridge to Lake Havasu City in Arizona, a community that McCulloch had founded and had ambitions to make a tourist oasis. Before the bridge was taken apart, each granite block was marked indicating their arch span, row number and position then dissembled. The blocks were then shipped via the Panama Canal to California where transported it from Long Beach to Arizona. To avoid the same issues the bridge had in London, a hollow core of steel-reinforced concrete was built and was covered by the 10,000 tons of the original 19th century granite transported from London.
On October 10 1971 was re-dedicated in a flamboyant ceremony attended by London’s Lord Mayor, and included skydivers, fireworks, marching bands, hot air balloons, and an extravagant banquet with lobster and roast beef which was the same meal served to King William IV during the bridge’s original unveiling in 1831. The new bridge carries the McCulloch Boulevard, spanning the Bridgewater Channel and cost McCulloch $7 million and three years to build.
The project wasn’t taken kindly to at first as many thought that it was an eccentric scheme and by 1971 it became widely known as ‘McCulloch’s Folly’. The New York Times had even quoted a British newsman saying, “It’s all quite mad—it could only happen in America. Only an American would think of investing that much in something as crazy as this”. Yet despite these accusations that the project was a gimmick, the town and grown in population to over 10,000 residents by 1974 from just a population of a few hundred in the early 1960’s. The bridge seemed to have accomplished just what McCulloch had intended as in 1975, it was reported that it had brough nearly two million visitors the previous year. The London Bridge is still standing in Arizona to this day and is a fascinatingly curious part of London’s history.