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How the London Bridge was Moved

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A lot of movers claim they can handle any job, large or small…  but what about one of the biggest moving jobs in history?

How London Bridge Came To America

In late 1971, in a little-known town called Lake Havasu City, AZ, a dedication ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of America’s newest old bridge:  London Bridge.  It was among the strangest cross-continental business deals ever concocted.   An American investor named Robert McCulloch had purchased the famous bridge directly from the City of London and had it reconstructed in the middle of Arizona.

Why in the world would they do this?

Well, London was going to be tearing the old bridge down, either way.  This particular London Bridge was constructed over the River Thames in 1831, when horse-and-buggy traffic was all it had to handle.  By 1962, it had become clear that London Bridge was simply too narrow, and too weak, to handle the demands of 20th Century trucks and automobiles.  It was literally sinking into the Thames.

Meanwhile, in America, McCulloch had just received a large portion of land in Arizona from the government for free, under the promise he would develop it into a commercial hub.  The problem was, it was far away from major roads, in an especially hot area of the state few people would willingly want to visit.

So how do you turn a lifeless chunk of desert into a new business center?   By creating a gigantic tourist trap, that’s how.

And upon hearing that London was considering sale of the bridge, to help fund construction of its replacement, McCulloch successfully bid about $2.5 million dollars for London Bridge.  Converting 1968 dollars to today’s prices, that would be more than $17 million.

This left them with one small problem.  And by ‘small,’ we mean huge.

The Moving Of A Monument   

Reportedly, when McCulloch first heard the proposal to buy London Bridge, he said it was “the craziest idea I have ever heard.”   It’s hard to disagree.  On the other side of the Atlantic, the Englishman who sold the bridge – Mr. Ivan Luckinsimilarly said the proposal was “completely crazy.”

Yet, it happened.

Ultimately, not all of the bridge was moved across the Atlantic.  Only the exterior stonework was moved, and then placed around a newly-constructed concrete framework in Arizona.  Each piece of stone from London Bridge was numbered, and shipped across the Atlantic to the Port of Houston.  From there, they were transported overland to Arizona.

Due to the wear and tear the blocks had experienced over the years, and minor damage done during de-construction, many had to be reshaped at a local stone quarry.  Then, the bridge was painstakingly reconstructed brick-by-brick, over the course of more than three years.  They even got the Lord Mayor of London to come to American to lay the first stone.

In the end, it cost nearly $10 million dollars (over $61 million dollars today) to carry out the entire bridge moving project.

Even more amazingly, the project was a complete success!  The bridge stands to this day, and Lake Havasu City grew from nothing to a town of over 50,000 people.  It’s a thriving community, complete with a faux-British open-air market accompanying the bridge.  McCulloch saw his huge investment fully paid-back, and created one of America’s most unusual landmarks in the process.

It’s truly a testament to how American entrepreneurialism -with a dash of madness- can pay off.

Now, here at Jay Moves, we might not be able to move a bridge between continents… but we can handle just about anything else!  Contact us today for a free quote.

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Jay's Small Moves
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(415) 999-6795

2525 Mandela Pkwy
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 501-5800

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