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London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Bridges have sat at the western edge of the Pool of London on the Thames for almost 2,000 years. In 1831, the medieval bridge was finally replaced with a “modern” stone-arch bridge. In just over 100 years, the foundation of that bridge sank into the mud to the extent that it had to be replaced. However, instead of tearing it down and salvaging any usable material, the city decided to sell the bridge. They found a buyer in Robert McCullough, the founder of Lake Havasu City as a retirement resort on a reservoir on the Colorado River. In 1968, McCullough spent $2.46 million to purchase the bridge. Then, he spent another $4.5 million over the next three years to have the bridge dismantled stone-by-stone, shipped to the US, transported overland to Arizona, and then reassembled in the middle of the desert.

The bridge is definitely a gimmick, intended to attract tourists and sell real estate at a remote, planned community. The channel is full of power boats, jet skis, and bikini-clad stand-up paddle boarders, and it is entertaining to watch these modern-looking transport methods passing each other under the 180 year-old stonework of the bridge. Beyond the small channel and above the shoreline shops, the view in all directions is of the barren rock mountains of the Arizona desert. Even with these incongruous touches, an attempt has been made to incorporate the London theme into the surrounding area. The bridge deck is lined with both American flags and Union Jacks, and several of the shops and restaurants have faux Olde England architecture and a “Ye Olde Shoppe” theme.

Once you have adjusted to the contrast, you will notice that the stonework of the bridge is gorgeous. The bridge is constructed of five arches of about equal size and, to be truthful, is not really a complete reconstruction of the bridge as it stood in London. Instead, the bridge has a cement arch core of the same dimensions as the original London Bridge, and is then faced with the decorative stonework, balustrades, and lampposts brought over from London. The arches themselves are framed with stones with diagonally cut ends placed radially around the arch-ring to create a sunburst effect. Then, the spandrel is constructed of rough-faced, horizontal granite blocks ranging in color from dark to light gray to almost white. The deck is lined with round, carved granite balusters holding up a thick granite handrail. The sidewalks are then lined with Victorian-looking bronze lampposts that are stamped “T. Potter & Sons South Molton St. W”, and appear to be the original lampposts. The deck is actually a few feet wider than the arches, with the side extensions held up by closely spaced carved, crenulated granite supports.

There is a more detailed description of the bridge in my book, Bridgespotting: A Guide to Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times.

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