Friday, April 10, 2009

London Bridge Was Falling Down

Remember when you stretched your arms to hold a friend’s hands to swoop down and catch the kids walking under you while singing the nursery rhyme, “London Bridge is Falling Down?” I imagined the bridge to have huge girders or cables that stretched to the sky (like my arms). I thought it would look like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Wrong. All you see when you drive over the bridge is a few cast iron lampposts and empty flagpoles over the highway. You need to go under the bridge to see its beauty.

The London Bridge that was built in England in 1831 and was slowly sinking into the Thames River, isn’t even the bridge that the rhyme was written about. An information sheet from the Lake Havasu Convention and Visitors Center says that it “dates back to when Danish Pirates, having seized London, in 1014, were attacked by Viking chieftain, Olaf Haralsen, and his men. The Vikings had been enlisted by the British to help them regain control of London. The Vikings rowed under the then London Bridge, made of wood, slung stout ropes around the pilings and then rowed downstream pulling the bridge and the Danes all down into the water.”

The Vikings weren’t the only ones who tried to make the London Bridge fall. If you take a boat ride through the bridge, you can see the marks of shells fired into the bridge by German soldiers in World War II.

The brochure said, “In the early 1960’s it became obvious that the (1831) bridge was sinking 1/8 inch each year and would have to be replaced. Cause of the sinking? The bridge, originally built for pedestrian traffic, was now seeing 100,000 pedestrians and 10,000 vehicles each day. The footings . . . were on soft ground and with increased traffic flow with the weight of the structure itself” were causing it to slowly sink into the Thames River. London Bridge was falling down.

Robert McCulloch, Sr. had a dream of building a city and using the London Bridge as a tourist attraction. He hired C.V. Wood who planned Disneyland in California to be the master planner for the project. (The statute is of the two men and their master plans.)

The brochure from the visitor center said that, “The Colorado River runs through Lake Havasu and is backed up by the Parker Dam, creating the Lake.” Mr. McCulloch purchased twenty-six square miles of land along the lake in 1963. He purchased the 1831 granite London bridge for $2,460,000 and paid between five and seven million for dismantling, transportation, and reconstruction of the bridge plus building the site for it. The rebuilt bridge, that was built with five arches and is 930 feet long and 49 feet wide, was built on dry land. Then a one-mile channel was dredged out beneath the bridge.
Even though Mr. McCulloch had dreams on a gigantic scale, I doubt that he had any idea of how large the town of Lake Havasu has become since he died in 1977.

1 comment:

Jerry and Suzy said...

Darlene, thanks for bringing us back to a place we've visited a couple of times. We remember the "ho hum" of driving over the bridge, and how sturdy and yet graceful the arches look from the side and below. We didn't know the stories you told of Vikings and Danes and of the sinking bridge. I guess you learn something every day!