Feb 28, 2012
Tovrea Castle and the Carraro Cactus Garden in Phoenix Finally Open To The Public
(PHOENIX, February 28, 2012) -- Tovrea Castle, perched atop a cactus-covered hill in east-central Phoenix, has intrigued generations of Valley residents. The castle was built between 1928-1930 by Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro, who also added a spectacular desert garden known as the Carraro Cactus Garden. The castle and surrounding 44 acres, now owned by the City of Phoenix, have been officially named Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights in recognition of the families associated with its history. During the 2012 Arizona Centennial, this official Centennial Legacy Project facility will open for public tours.
Limited guided tours of the site will begin March 10, according to Roger Lidman, Museum Administrator with the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department's Natural Resources Division. The tours are made possible by a partnership between the nonprofit Tovrea Carraro Society and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Reservations are necessary, and a fee is charged. Visit the website at www.tovreacastletours.com for more information.
Tovrea Castle is the stuff of legends and dreams. From 1928 to 1930, Alessio Carraro, his son Leo, and a crew of about 20 workers shaped the landscape where the castle is located into a spectacular desert paradise. Crowning this landscape was the magnificent wedding cake-shaped "castle" reminiscent of his Italian homeland. Carraro hired a talented Russian gardener named Moktachev to develop the gardens while the castle was built.
The arrival of the Great Depression and construction of sheep and cattle pens nearby changed Carraro's plans. In 1931, Carraro sold the castle and surrounding land to Della Tovrea.
Della's husband, E.A. Tovrea, was a legend, himself, in the western cattle and ranching industry. He founded and operated Arizona Packing Company and Tovrea Packing Company in the 1920s and '30s. The family also started the Stockyards Restaurant in 1947, which is still operating today.
E.A. passed away in 1932, shortly after Carraro sold his property to Della. Della retained the castle as her Phoenix residence. In 1936 she married William Stuart, the publisher of the Prescott Courier and collector of Internal Revenue for Arizona. They spent most of the year in Prescott but lived in the castle every winter. Mr. Stuart died in 1960, and Della relocated to the castle permanently until her death in 1969. In 1970, the Tovrea Family Trust assumed control of the property.
In 1993, the city of Phoenix purchased the castle and seven and a half acres immediately surrounding the building. Between 1996 and 2003, the city purchased an additional 36 acres of land surrounding the castle, preserving it for future enjoyment and use. Having suffered from years of neglect following Della's death, the castle structure has undergone massive restoration and the City of Phoenix continues efforts to restore the Carraro Cactus Garden.
Following more than 20 years of work to restore this historic property, the community can be proud that the magnificent castle has been restored with a new roof, rehabilitated historic windows, restored original exterior stucco, reworked patios and entries, and a restored interior.
Five years were spent restoring the Cactus Garden to its original biological splendor: the garden has more than 5,000 cacti in over 100 varieties, more than 350 saguaro cacti were planted, and 62 trees were planted on 30 acres.
The castle, a Phoenix Point of Pride, is a collaborative project of the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Tovrea Castle was listed on City Historic Property Registry in 1990 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
For more information about upcoming guided tours at Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights and the historic restoration project, visit www.tovreacastletours.com or call 602-256-3221.