Not a Con

Lake Pen is situated in Arizona, famous for two major landmarks, one natural and one not so much: The Grand Canyon and London Bridge.

It’s a common misconception, among those that know the original London Bridge now resides in a Lake in Arizona, that it was a con man that sold the bridge to a gullible Yank with more money than sense, believing he was in fact purchasing Tower Bridge.

The truth is different, although quite an interesting story in itself.

The bridge had been built way back in 1831 and although widened in 1902, thereafter remained untouched. The local council were aware that the bridge was also sinking, although not particularly quickly. But in 1967, it was decided it needed replacing with something more robust to cope with the increasing traffic.

Ordinarily, a structure such as this would have been demolished and a new one built in its place, but one Ivan Luckin, a Council member and former PR man proposed that if marketed properly, there was a good chance the bridge could be sold as a tourist attraction.

Although sceptical, he was given permission to travel to the States to see if he could attract a buyer and, sure enough oil tycoon Robert McCulloch bought the structure for just over a mill and had each stone numbered and transported to America, at a further cost to him of $7 million.

In truth, he only took the outer granite blocks and had them clad over a modern reinforced concrete structure.

His vision was to add something spectacular to the burgeoning community he had built on the shores of Lake Havasu in 1964. His gamble paid off though and he more than recouped his outlay from the increase in property prices that resulted from planting the bridge on the lake.

A win-win then from the most unpromising of ideas, the City of London made a tidy sum towards the making of a new bridge and a man with ideas for a new town also made a profit. It wasn’t all plain sailing though; for the first five weeks, Luckin had no bites at all and it wasn’t until he changed his angle and went over to New York that he got a nibble. Luckin not a con man then, but most certainly, that man got game.

Read more about The Big Game.

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