London Bridge - Route 66 Side Trip

Before leaving Arizona, there was one more place we wanted to see - London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. It's not on Route 66, but only 54 miles from where we were in Oatman. I'm pretty sure we'll never get back that way again and since Momma-woman's momma is from England just outside of London, we had to make the side trip just to say we'd been there.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, AZ.
The London Bridge in Lake Havasu City is the 1831 London Bridge which spanned the Thames River. By 1967, the granite bridge was worn and no longer able to safely support the amount of traffic going across it. The city put it up for sale. About this same time over in America, the Federal Government gave some land and an abandoned military airstrip to the state of Arizona. Located smack dab in the middle of nowhere in a very hot and barren desert, not even the state was really interested in owning it. A lake had been constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1938, but it was not developed and was only used to store water for pumping into 2 aqueducts.

Along came Robert P. McCulloch, owner and chairman of the very successful McCulloch Oil Company, who had an idea. With the promise of developing the area around the lake, the state gave him the property for free.

Crossing London Bridge
Mr. McCulloch financed the building of roads and houses to sell to the public, but Mr. Robert Plumer, McCulloch's real estate agent and lead salesperson for the venture, was finding it almost impossible to get prospective buyers to go out to the property, much less buy a home there. He heard about the London Bridge being up for sale and, hoping to entice more prospects, he asked McCulloch to buy it for the property as a tourist attraction. After second and third thoughts, McCulloch finally agreed and purchased the bridge which had been deconstructed and stored in numbered blocks. Shipping the bridge to the site in Arizona was going to be very expensive, but then Plumer heard of a cargo shipping company who was bringing a newly built ship from England to America. The new ship was sailing empty so Plumer made a deal with the company to pay for all the operating expenses of getting the ship to America if the ship would bring the bridge with it. The blocks of granite were delivered at less than half of what it would have cost without the arrangement.

A new concrete bridge in the shape and size of the original London Bridge was constructed on land along the east shore of Lake Havasu. After completion, the granite blocks from the London Bridge were trimmed and used to clad the new bridge. The whole process took a little more than 3 years to finish. Once it was completed, a canal was dredged under the bridge and filled with water from the lake.

The bridge from the patio of a restaurant
located on one end.
McCullouch financed a big promotional push with the theme "come see the famous London Bridge!" and housing sales began to take off. Against all odds, Lake Havasu City was a success. With the land being given to him for free and with limited costs for the bridge, it wasn't long before Mr. McCullouch had made back his investment and was making a very nice profit.

I'm not sure what we expected before we got there, but I have to say it was a bit of a letdown. I mean, it's just a bridge. There's a couple of signs on the ends indicating it is London Bridge. There are gas stations and shopping centers and eating places and masses of humanity for several miles on both sides. Lake Havasu City doesn't seem to make much of a big deal about it. You drive across or walk across and you can say you've gone over London Bridge.

It was cool to be there; to actually see it; to actually touch it. I guess I'm glad we went. I thought, "Hmmm. Well, here it is and here we are." We sat on a low concrete wall around the outside patio of a restaurant on one end of the bridge and watched as several high-dollar speed boats loudly zoomed through the arches. Then it was just a number of cars driving over the bridge without fanfare. I took a few pictures and we got  back on the road, crossed over London Bridge and headed back to Route 66 before hitting the California border. We didn't even get a t-shirt.

Bye-bye Arizona. We had a blast!

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