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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

London Bridge in the Arizona Desert

The bridge was originally built across the River Thames in London, England and opened to traffic in 1831.  

The original London Bridge was built of timber and was later replaced by a stone bridge that was built between 1176 and 1209.

This masonry bridge that was started in 1176, lasted until the late eighteenth century.  Despite its having lasted over 600 years, the uneven construction of that bridge resulted in its need for regular repairs.  This may be one reason for the nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down as, without the frequent repairs, it would have fallen down.

London Bridge - Lake Havasu, Arizona  
(photo Copyright © 2013 by Charles Nugent)

In addition to carrying foot and horse traffic this original stone bridge was home to many people and their shops.  With their homes and shops built on the bridge many people literally spent their lives living on the bridge.  In addition to the living, the bridge was also a place where the severed heads of prominent political prisoners and other notorious criminals were displayed.

In 1799 plans began being developed to replace the 600 year old bridge as it was not aging gracefully.  The new bridge was completed and opened in 1831.  However, by the mid-twentieth century, this bridge was straining under the heavy twentieth century London traffic.

In 1967 the London Common Council decided to sell the bridge and build a new one.  

When Robert Plumer, real estate agent for Robert P. McCulloch, the Chairman of McCulloch Oil Company and the man who was trying to develop a retirement community called Lake Havasu City located in what was then a remote area in the Arizona Desert, saw the announcement that the City of London was trying to sell the bridge and suggested to McCulloch that he purchase the bridge.  

Plumer's idea was to use the bridge in the middle of the desert as a tourist attraction to draw people to the Lake Havasu City project which, at that time, was not turning out to be a profitable venture.

Although he initially scoffed at the idea, McCulloch did reconsider and put in a bid for $2.4 million and won.  The bridge was then disassembled, stone by stone, each stone numbered and then shipped from London to Houston, Texas by ship and then overland to the Lake Havasu City project site where it was reassembled across a canal that had been built for it to span.

The gamble paid off with the publicity and uniqueness of a historic British bridge in the middle of the Arizona desert drawing tourists and retirees in droves to Lake Havasu City.  The project was a success and the profits were more than enough to cover the cost of buying, transporting and re-building the bridge.

The re-building of the bridge was completed in 1971 and ever since Lake Havasu City has been a popular tourist attraction and a year round population of families and retirees.

Bridge's Role in Salvation Army Aiding the Homeless

Plaque Commemorating Start of Salvation Army's Shelter Program for the Homeless
(Photo copyright © 2013 by Charles Nugent)
The Plaque above, located on a stone by one of the bridge's arches, commemorates the bridge's role as inspiration for the founding of the Salvation Army's building shelters to aid those in need.  

Upon seeing a crowd of poor people seeking shelter under the London Bridge on a cold night in London in November of 1887, William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army in London in 1865, decided to expand the Salvation Army's mission by building shelters  to aid those in ned.

Monday, July 15, 2013

St. Louis Cathedral in Carthage, Tunisia

One of the attractions Tunis, the capital of the North African nation of Tunisia, offers is the opportunity to visit the remains of Carthage, the mortal enemy of ancient Rome.  

Carthage is actually a suburb of Tunis with a population numbering a little over 20,000 people.  Like many suburban municipalities, without a map it can be difficult to tell when you pass from Tunis proper and into Carthage, 

La cath├ędrale Saint-Louis de Carthage

especially if you are a tourist riding in a taxicab after asking the driver, in broken French, to show you the city.

The original Carthage was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC after a three year siege during the third Punic War.  Carthage was later rebuilt and it is the ruins of that rebuilt city that one can visit on Byrsa hill overlooking the Gulf of Tunis on the Mediterranean Sea.  

Also located on the Byrsa Hill and next to the ruins of Carthage is the Cathedral of St. Louis or La cath├ędrale Saint-Louis de Carthage.

The cathedral was built between 1884 and 1890 during the period when Tunisia was a part of France's 19th century colonial empire (Tunisia gained its independence from France in 1956).  

The French King Louis IX (St. Louis) launched the Eighth Crusade in 1270.  His strategy was to establish a beachhead at Carthage in Tunisia an use that city as a base to attack Egypt.  

King Louis and his forces landed at Carthage on July 17, 1270 and prepared to lay siege to Tunis.  However, poor drinking water led to an epidemic of dysentery in the French camp which resulted in many deaths including that of Louis on August 25th.  There is a small monument to Louis IX somewhere on the grounds around the Carthage ruins which supposedly marks the spot where some of his entrails were buried during the preparation of his body for the trip back to France.

Given the that Carthage was where St. Louis died, it was only natural to name the cathedral after him.  However, today the Church is no longer a house of worship but has been turned into a concert hall.  For a small fee tourists can visit the inside of the Cathedral but we didn't have time to do this on our shot visit.

I have also used the photo above to illustrate the following articles I have published on