Search Bar

Custom Search

search results

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.

No comments: