Val Striyle was a builder for 30 years, but few projects he’s worked on match the importance of the London Bridge.
No one expected American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch to buy one of Great Britain’s most famous bridges, much less that he would carry it back to America, brick by brick, and place it in the Arizona desert. Like something from a tall tale, McCulloch accomplished the impossible – or at least, the highly unlikely – for no reason other than that he could.
Striyle moved from Eugene, Oregon to Lake Havasu City in 1969, and quickly took to the challenge of helping to erect the London Bridge in its new location. He led work crews in laying the bridge’s massive stones, and brought fresh stones to the worksite every week. Striyle and his crews worked from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., often under blistering heat, for nearly three years to complete the project.
“We were constantly getting our hands dirty,” Striyle said. “We did everything that needed to be done – everything from setting stone to delivering it to the stone yard. Every day was different. There was a new problem every day.”
Striyle remembers a feeling of satisfaction as his crew laid the final stone of the London Bridge in place in 1971, on the structure’s northeastern side. Where there was once only a desert peninsula, a famous landmark stood over the newly-created waterway of Bridgewater Channel. Striyle says he had a hand in Havasu’s history, laying a monument that stands over Bridgewater Channel decades later.
“I’m proud,” Striyle said. “It’s not every day that you get to build the London Bridge.”
Striyle has enjoyed living in Havasu with his wife, LouAnn, for more than 35 years; and still has a feeling of satisfaction when he sees the bridge he and dozens of other workers helped to build. Striyle has two children and at least six grandchildren.
His career in construction spanned three decades before his retirement in 1999. Striyle also served as general manager at Havasu Landing Resort for ten years.