Monday, September 13, 2010

Las Vegas and the Old Mormon Fort

Las Vegas is a town that I enjoy visiting.  I am not a gambler per se.  I do a roll or two of nickels when I am there but I am really interested in many of the shows and especially the eats!

The restaurants and smorgasbords are fantastic.  One of my favorite things to do in Vegas is to watch the parades.  I am a people watcher and there are hundreds of spots in the big casinos or on the mall they made on the old Fremont Street.

Just pick a spot and sit back and watch all the people who go by.  It can be very fascinating to just watch the variety of people who are present.

Another treat are the many museums that are to be found in Vegas.  Many are within the casinos out on the strip but there are also a number elsewhere in the city like the Liberace Museum, which I hear will close in October of this year, but also the Elvis Museum and there are a number of other interesting sites to visit.

In wandering around Vegas I got a surprise to find the Old Mormon Fort and also to learn that it was the first settlement in Las Vegas.    

Las Vegas is a Spanish name and means the Meadows and the area was an oasis on the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to California.  Paiutes, trappers, the early Spanish explorers used it as a rest stop in their travels and at that time there was clear running water and green grass meadows as far as the eye could see.  

In 1855 Brigham Young sent a group of 30 missionaries to settle in the Las Vegas area.  They were to establish a settlement and work with the Indians and teach them farming.  Brigham Young wanted a settlement in this area because it was a half way point between Salt Lake and the San Bernardino Mission.

They built a small building out of adobe and started raising some crops and began to work out some irrigation but soon abandoned the endeavor when the San Bernardino Mission closed.

The building was later added to and a 14 foot wall was built around the site by later ranchers and such.  It was called a fort but there was never any permanent troops posted there.  The Old Mormon Fort sat on what must have been a pretty good source of water and is a look into the history of Las Vegas.  In the 1850s there was water and what must have been some good grassland but the water source later dried up -- I suppose?                                                                    

Lake Havasu City, Arizona - London Bridge

London Bridge is a bridge that was first built across the Thames River in England nearly 2000 years ago.

The first bridge that was built was built about 50 AD by the Romans and was probably a pontoon bridge.  Over the years a number of bridges have been built and destroyed on the site where London Bridge stands.

I remember as a kid playing London Bridges Falling Down when I was in grade school.  That game is said to come from a poem that was written by an English poet after a Norwegian Prince destroyed the bridge in 1031 AD.

Time and again London Bridge was destroyed and rebuilt and sometimes the structure was altered.  At one point in time they even let people build shops and houses on the bridge along side the roadway.  The bridge authorities rented the space for them to build on with the intent of generating revenue to pay for the upkeep of the bridge.

The shops and houses were allowed to jut out into the roadway by 7 feet on each side and then overhang the water by 7 feet the other direction.  Some were built as high as 7 stories.  That meant that 7 feet of the roadway was taken up on each side of the bridge or 14 feet.  Out of the 26 foot roadway that left only 12 feet for travel, 6 feet in each direction.

During that time it was not unusual to take over an hour just to cross the bridge.  Many times people would take the ferries that ran at the side of the bridge so they could get across faster.

Another period of time saw pikes placed on the South Gate of the bridge and heads of individuals who had been executed were placed on the pikes and displayed.  William Wallace of Braveheart fame was the first of those displayed and that display grew to 30 heads displayed.

As time passed the bridge kept changing and adapting to try to handle the traffic flowing across it until in about 1970 it was decided that the bridge needed to be replaced.  The old one was no longer able to accommodate the volume and crush of traffic and so the Common Council of London placed the old bridge on the market and started looking for buyers.

That is when an American entrepreneur, Robert P McCullough, stepped in and bought the bridge for 2.5 million dollars.  

The bridge was then dismantled and each of the stones were numbered so they could be reassembled and then shipped to Arizona in the U.S.A.  The bridge was then reassembled over a strong concrete base and now stands there for all to see.

London has a new bridge in the place where London Bridge stood for nearly 2000 years but the older London Bridge that participated in so much English History including the German Blitzkrieg over London in World War II now stands in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.