Thursday, March 11, 2010

I've got some bridges to sell you

You've heard the expressions. "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you," or alternatively, "...I've got some ocean-front property in Arizona to sell you." Well, the Brooklyn Bridge was in fact sold more than once by scam artists and remains in place over New York's East River. London Bridge over the River Thames, on the other hand, was disassembled piece by piece and moved to Arizona after it was sold by the City of London.

Brooklyn Bridge. One of the most notorious con men, George C. Parker (1870-1936), claimed to have sold the bridge twice a week for years - and authorities more than once had to stop his "marks" from erecting toll barriers. Parker, by the way, also sold Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant's Tomb, and the Statue of Liberty. According to The Great Bridge, the many bridge-selling scams that took place after it opened in 1883 originated with the conflict between Manhattan and Brooklyn over its ownership.

1st image is a photograph from 1946 by American photographer Arthur Leipzig (b. 1918).

London Bridge. There have been many successive London Bridges, including the medieval one lined with buildings on which the heads of executed criminals were exposed. It was the bridge designed by Scottish engineer John Rennie (1761-1821) and opened in 1831 that was sold for $2,460,000 to Missouri oilman Robert P. McCulloch (1911-1977). "They all thought I was completely crazy when I suggested we should sell London Bridge when it needed replacing," remembered City of London council member Ivan Luckins, but capital from the sale of more than £200,000 a year goes toward maintaining the city's 4 bridges. Replaced by the modern London Bridge that still stands, "Rennie's bridge" was taken apart, transported to the U.S., and reassembled across a canal leading to Lake Havasu in Arizona. It was re-dedicated in 1971 and forms the centerpiece of a theme park and Tudor-period shopping mall, and is 2nd only to the Grand Canyon in the number of tourists it draws.

2nd image is a photo taken sometime between 1902 and 1906 by an unidentified photographer.

In conclusion, this article points out that in these times of privatization and economic uncertainty, it is becoming more common to sell toll roads, bridges, airports, and other public assets to private, for-profit entities. Proposed sale of New York's Tappan Zee Bridge is unlikely to move forward because the state prohibits public-private partnerships, but Alabama's 4-lane Foley Beach Expressway Bridge was sold in 2005 for $95 million. Privatizers value San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge at some $3.4 billion...

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.