Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro began his American dream in California where he was a successful entrepreneur and land developer. Several years before the Great Depression, he moved to Arizona and purchased a large parcel of land in east Phoenix -- remember, Phoenix was small in those days! He intended to build a resort and residential subdivision there called Carraro Heights. The resort's hotel is the structure that still stands today. It was completed in 1930. The rest of the plan never came to fruition. The hotel and some of the land were sold in 1932 to E.A. and Della Tovrea, who made the "castle" their home. E.A. passed away a year later, in 1933. Della lived in the house until she passed away in 1969. The City of Phoenix purchased the property from the Tovrea family in 1993. At one point it was intended to become a city park, but eventually a group of dedicated citizens convinced the city to restore the property and save the building and the garden. The stone walls surrounding the property are the originals, the divider between this more than 80-year-old property and the development of a major U.S. city that occurred right outside its walls.
See images from a guided tour of Tovrea Castle and the Carraro Cactus Garden.
The Carraro Cactus Garden surrounds the castle. Alessio Carraro supervised a team of workmen who planted and tended to the garden beginning in 1928. Over the years, the hotel "castle" fell into disrepair and most of the garden plants died. After the City of Phoenix purchased it, renovations began to restore the property to its original plan. The garden restoration project began in 1998 and in the first year 1,400 cactus plants, including 400 saguaros, were planted.
Tovrea Castle renovations include not only restoring the property per original plans, drawings and images, but also making improvements including code upgrades, refurbishment of amenities like outdoor entertainment areas, irrigation systems and lighting.
The City of Phoenix has designated Tovrea Castle as a Phoenix Point of Pride. Although there have been a very small number of occasions when people have been allowed to visit Tovrea Castle since the City became the owner, the long-awaited opening to the public didn't happen until March 2012. Guided tours are now offered by the Tovrea Carraro Society, a nonprofit group of community volunteers who operate the Castle on behalf of the City of Phoenix.
In case you were wondering, the name Tovrea is pronounced: toh-vree.
Page 1: What Is This Place?
Page 2: Who Should Take the Tour?
Page 3: Schedule, Pricing, Location