London Bridge is falling down

It's happened to all of us one time or another. You're in the bargain basement, rifling through mountains of shmattas and you come across something you decide you'll buy, without paying too much attention to what it looks like.

Well, the story of how London Bridge came to be installed in the middle of the Mojave Desert is a bit like this, with a major dollop of naivety thrown in.

Oil tycoon Robert McCulloch thought he was on to something when he heard in 1963 that the City of London was putting London Bridge up for sale: with the foundations sinking into the clay bottom of the Thames, it made sense to dispose of it and build a bigger and more stable one to replace it.

So McCulloch, who was also the founder and developer of Lake Havasu City in Arizona - a new town built on a Second World War landing strip - put in a bid because he thought having the bridge connecting the town with an island in the lake would be a charming, olde worlde attraction that would bring in the tourists. And he thought he'd got himself a bargain when his offer of $2,460,000 was accepted. The fact that it took three years to dismantle and ship to Arizona, where it was stored in a seven-acre compound before it was reconstructed over a lagoon alongside Lake Havasu at a cost of $7 million didn't seem to bother him.

What did, according to popular legend, is the fact that he bought the wrong bridge. Wot, no turrets? he might have exclaimed when the parcel was unwrapped, and he realised that this was London Bridge, rather than Tower Bridge with its more picturesque towers and central lifting section.

But this being America, where entrepreneurial spirit is indomitable, McCullough didn't give in: he built a "London village" complete with red phone box, mock Tudor pub and Routemaster bus at the foot of the bridge - and even named the local radio station the BBC.

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