Thousands of people come to Lake Havasu City to walk (or drive) across what has been called “The World’s Largest Antique” by the Guinness Book of Records.
While some longtime residents of Lake Havasu City mark history with a timeline that is “before” and “after” the London Bridge made its debut across a desert floor that became the Bridgewater Channel, the antique itself has a long history of spanning the Thames River in London.
But how did the London Bridge come to be the iconic draw that brings those visitors?
Lake Havasu’s London Bridge was originally designed and built by John Rennie, opening on Aug. 1, 1831.
There had been a bridge across the Thames mentioned by historians as early A.D. 43 – built by Roman soldiers. But Rennie’s bridge replaced one that was first designed and built by a priest, Peter de Colechurch in 1163. It was made of stone and stood for 699 years.
As Rennie’s bridge began to show its age over the years – weighed down by of traffic and erosion – it was no longer a sound solution to crossing the Thames. In addition to everyday wear and tear, the bridge endured strafing by German fighter planes during the Blitz of London during World War II. (Those strafing marks are visible on the bridge where it now stands.)
There are lighter memories of World War II with the bricks signed by American GIs from the Big Red One stationed in London. (Those memories are also visible on the London Bridge in Havasu above the southwest staircase.)
London decided to build a new bridge in the mid-1960s – just about the time that Havasu’s Founding Father Robert P. McCulloch was looking for an icon to set his new city in the Arizona desert apart for all others.
McCulloch purchased the bridge on April 18, 1968 for the sum of $2,460,000 and the logistics of getting it here followed.
As the bridge was deconstructed in London, each brick was numbered to make reconstruction in Lake Havasu City work a lot like putting a puzzle together.
The bricks were then transported by ship to Long Beach, Calif. Upon delivery, the numbered bricks were placed on trucks and brought to Lake Havasu City.
After nearly three years of construction on the sandy desert floor, the Bridgewater Channel was dredged, and the London Bridge enjoyed its star-studded debut over the water on Oct. 10, 1971.
When London Bridge Days is celebrated in October this year, it will have spanned the Channel for 48 years. It is 188 years old.
Not only is the London Bridge “The World’s Largest Antique,” it continues to stand the test of time and plays an integral part in the history of Lake Havasu City.
The London Bridge has been photographed by our RiverScene photographers many times over the years. Here are submitted photos taken over time by RSM Fans and RSM photographers.
To read another story about the construction of the London Bridge and the Schimmel Family, click .here.
To view old photos of the English Village, click on the story here.
Photos of the London Bridge as it stands today in Lake Havasu City: