Sunday, October 10, 2010

No More Falling Down

Magnet # 364:  London Bridge, Lake Havasu City


Material:  Rubber


Purchased By:  Me

We've reached 10-10-10, a date which is being marked with marriages and special offers around the world.  And I'm not sure if they're celebrating in Arizona's Lake Havasu City, but they certainly were back in 1971.  That was the day when they rededicated London Bridge after taking it apart, dragging it across an ocean and much of a continent, and putting it together again.  I guess a project of that scale merits a some recognition upon its successful completion.

The London Bridge that now stands in Lake Havasu City was not the first to stand at its spot in London.  The Romans were the first to construct a bridge there, or very close by.  Others followed, and eventually Old, or Medieval, London Bridge was built.  Shops and houses were actually placed on it, so pedestrians and carts had very little space with which to cross.  And if traffic was very heavy, that could take up to an hour.  Under the stress of supporting these buildings, the bridge finally needed to be taken down after more than 600 years of service.  Engineer John Rennie and his son were chosen to create the next London Bridge, which was opened in 1831.  It became the busiest spot in all of London and over the years, it began to sink into the River Thames.  In fact, by 1924, the east side of the bridge was about three inches lower than its counterpart.  So it was decided that a new bridge would need to be constructed.  This time, however, it would not simply be torn down - the City of London decided to see if they could make some money from it and put it up for sale.  American entrepreneur and Lake Havasu City founder Robert P. McCulloch thought the bridge would bring some attention to his town, so he bought it in 1968 for $2.4 million.  The process of actually getting the bridge to Arizona and rebuilding it cost $7.5 million more.  The 10,276 granite bricks that made up the bridge were taken apart one by one and numbered individually to make the reconstruction process as simple as possible.  And it wasn't built simply from the bricks which had proven to be unstable - they were used to cover a reinforced concrete structure.  As the time of its reassembly, it was actually not built over water.  Once it was completed, a channel was dredged underneath so the waters of the Colorado River could flow beneath the structure.  In the meanwhile, London was busy creating a newer, more modern London Bridge that opened in 1973.  The move has paid of well for both locations, as both of the bridges are still in use.

Well, given this month's theme of creepy posts, I thought I'd mention a couple aspects of London Bridge that I might not otherwise bring up.  The London Bridge that stood before this particular bridge was actually used for a pretty ugly practice a long time ago - displaying the severed heads of traitors.  Thomas More, William Wallace, and Thomas Cromwell all suffered the indignity of having theirs displayed at the gatehouse.  As many as 30 heads might be placed at one time, but thankfully the vile practice was put to an end when King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.  And who knows, while Rennie's London Bridge was never decorated in such a ghastly manner, it may have still picked up spirits from its predecessor.  It's been said that not only British expatriates followed the structure to Arizona, but that some ghosts may have come along as well.  Even at the rededication ceremony, some claimed to see figures clad in Victorian-era clothing in the crowd, although nobody had hired actors to do so.  At night, sometimes a Bobby, or British policeman has allegedly been seen, as has a woman in black.  And some have even said that they'd been pushed aside by unseen passerby.  Hollywood has even made use of its darker side, producing a television movie which holds that the bridge brought the spirit of Jack the Ripper with it, who brings about a string of killings in Lake Havasu City.  And it has to be good - David Hasselhoff stars in it!  Regardless, McCulloch's move has certainly paid off - London Bridge is actually the second most popular tourist attraction in Arizona, coming in only after the Grand Canyon.  Far from falling down, this structure stands tall, the pride of its new hometown.

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