This Sunday fifty years ago, London Bridge that had been sold, dismantled and moved to Lake Havasu was opened. On 10th October 1971, London Bridge reopened in Lake Havasu City, Arizona with all the razzamatazz you’d expect.
Ivan Luckin, a Common Council Member of The City of London proposed the idea of selling the bridge, which was initially received as pure lunacy. Five weeks before the closing date there had been lots of inquiries – but no firm offers. The idea looked like collapsing in fiasco.
He persisted, went to the States and at a press conference at the British-American Chamber of Commerce in New York the sale was made to American oil tycoon Robert P. McCulloch for a sum of $2.46 million.
The oft-repeated tale that McCulloch believed he was buying Tower Bridge is a myth, there had been a fully illustrated sales brochure produced, and I suspect the extra publicity, gained from this urban myth later promoted property sales in Arizona.
Only the shell was shipped off to the States, the bulk of the stone that didn’t go to America went to Merryvale Quarry in Devon.
Each stone of the cladding was individually numbered to aid in reassembly. It was then transported to California, via the Panama Canal, and trucked to what would become Lake Havasu City where it was reassembled spanning a newly built canal in the reservoir, providing access to an island.
McCulloch had obtained a sizable portion of desert land, along the shore of Lake Havasu, which had been dammed off during the 1930s. He had every intention of developing it, which meant that he needed to make it interesting, and in the case of the island, accessible.
Following the completion of the bridge, his gamble paid off, and the bridge made people curious about his new development. He recouped his entire investment in the bridge through land sales in the area, and Lake Havasu City was born.