How London Bridge Ended Up In Arizona – December 12, 2021

In 1968, an American tycoon bought London Bridge—all 10,000 tons of it—and moved it brick-by-brick to the desert town of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

In the early 1960s, officials in England made a troubling discovery: London Bridge was falling down. The 1,000-foot span had stood for over 130 years and survived strafing during World War II’s London Blitz, but it was unequipped for modern traffic and was slowly sinking into the River Thames at a rate of one inch every eight years. Renovations were deemed impractical, so the City of London resolved to build a wider, more car-friendly replacement. The 19th century granite bridge seemed destined for the junkyard, but a city councilor named Ivan Luckin convinced his colleagues that it might be possible to sell it in the United States. In 1968, he crossed the pond to market the monument to prospective buyers.

Luckin knew that London Bridge might be a tough sell. Completed in 1831 from a design by engineer John Rennie, it was the less glamorous successor of several other crossings, most notably the medieval London Bridge, which stood for 600 years and was once dotted with buildings and waterwheels. Londoners considered the existing bridge dull by comparison, but after arriving in America, Luckin promoted it as a timeless landmark. “London Bridge is not just a bridge,” he announced in a press conference in New York. “It is the heir to 2,000 years of history going back to the first century A.D., to the time of the Roman Londinium.”

American entrepreneur Robert P McCaulloch, standing on London Bridge as it is dismantled, ready for transportation back to America, April 18th 1968. (Credit: Jim Gray/Keystone/Getty Images)

American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch, standing on London Bridge as it is dismantled, ready for transportation back to America, April 18th 1968. (Credit: Jim Gray/Keystone/Getty Images)

The London Bridge sales pitch raised more than a few eyebrows in the United States, but for one businessman, it seemed like a natural fit. Robert McCulloch was a Missouri-born industrialist who had made millions heading up companies that sold oil, motors and chainsaws. Shamelessly eccentric—he once told a reporter that the secret of his success was “booze and broads”—the tycoon also had a penchant for pursuing pie-in-the-sky business schemes. The most recent had come in 1963, when he purchased thousands of acres of land near Arizona’s Lake Havasu, an isolated body of water created by a dam on the Colorado River. McCulloch had founded the community of Lake Havasu City at the site and had designs on making it a tourist oasis, but he was still struggling to attract visitors. When his business associate C.V. Wood told him about London Bridge, the two concluded that it was just the kind of eye-catching centerpiece Lake Havasu needed. McCulloch even hatched a plan to carve one of the lake’s peninsulas into an island so the bridge would have something to span. “I had this ridiculous idea of bringing it to the Arizona desert,” he later joked to the Chicago Tribune Magazine. “I needed the bridge, but even if I didn’t, I might have bought it anyway.”

Negotiations for the purchase proceeded rapidly during the spring of 1968. According to McCulloch, the most difficult part was hashing out a sales price with the City of London authorities. “We poured an awful lot of scotch trying to loosen them up enough to give us some idea of how much they wanted,” he told the Chicago Tribune Magazine. Finally, after learning that dismantling the bridge would cost London $1.2 million, McCulloch and Wood decided to offer double that amount. As a sweetener, McCulloch tacked on an additional $60,000—$1,000 for each year old he would be when the bridge reopened at Lake Havasu. In April 1968, for a final price of $2,460,000, Robert McCulloch became the proud owner of the world’s largest antique.

By cindyloucbp

Cynthia is the typical Pisces! Her left brain activities include scientific activities in the hospital laboratory as a director. Her right-brain activites show as a painter, photographer and musician. She is known as the scientist who sings!

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