Friday, August 26, 2016

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

How did the world famous London Bridge come to make its unlikely home in Arizona? The tale of how the bridge came to Lake Havasu City began over 5,400 miles away in London, England.

There have been several bridges built over the same section of the Thames River. The Old London Bridge of nursery-rhyme fame was built by Peter of Colechurch between 1176 and 1209, replacing an earlier timber bridge. Due to uneven construction, the bridge required frequent repair. That bridge survived more than 600 years.

One of the more grisly periods of the bridge's history was at the southern gateway between 1305 and 1660, when it was customary to display the severed heads of traitors. The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate. A German visitor to London in 1598 counted over 30 heads on the bridge. The practice was finally stopped in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II.

By the end of the 18th century, the old London Bridge needed to be replaced. It was narrow and decrepit, and blocked river traffic. Designed in 1799 by Scottish engineer John Rennie, the new London Bridge was completed in 1831. But as time passed, the new bridge began sinking at the rate of an inch every eight years. By 1924, the east side of the bridge was some three to four inches lower than the west side. The bridge had not been designed to withstand the impact of 20th century automotive traffic. In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London placed the bridge on the market and began to look for potential buyers.

On April 18, 1968, the winning bid went to entrepreneur and Lake Havasu City founder Robert P. McCullough for $2,460,000. (Contrary to popular belief, McCullough was not under the impression that he was purchasing the Tower Bridge.) Each block was meticulously numbered before the bridge was disassembled. The blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona, where the bridge was reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, and rededicated in a ceremony on October 10, 1971. Including the expense for relocation and reassembly, the total cost of the bridge was $5.1 million.

The London Bridge is also a movie star! It's been featured in such horror films as "Terror on the London Bridge" and "Day of the Wolves." It is rumored to be haunted. For years visitors have claimed sightings of a British police bobby patrolling the bridge and a woman in black roaming the night. It is also home to hundreds of bats, which inhabit the nooks and crannies of its hollow interior.

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