//www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Arizona Stories

Tovrea Castle

Tovrea CastleTovrea Castle was born out of the vision of Italian Alessio Carraro. Carraro came to Phoenix in 1928 with a dream to build a resort hotel castle surrounded by an exotic cactus garden and a subdivision of deluxe homes. While Carraro's dream of a hotel-resort never came to be, he did build the castle. It was purchased by stockyard mogul E.A. Tovrea in 1931, and the unique home became a historic Arizona icon in the city of Phoenix .

Read the complete transcript:

Narrator:
Tovrea Castle is an intriguing house on a hill east of Phoenix often referred to as “the wedding cake”. There are almost as many urban legends surrounding it as there are Saguaros, such as the rumor that the former owner was killed here, and her ghost haunts the Castle. Another tall tale, that the Castle was Al Capone's hideaway in the desert.

Mark Lamm:
And there really is nothing to tie the Chicago Mob with the Castle, but you know, it made a great story. And I think in later years, after the Tovreas bought the property and it became a private residence and people weren't allowed on the property anymore, it just made it all the more mysterious because you couldn't get on the property.

Narrator:
But the myths came long after the real story began. Tovrea Castle was born out of the vision of Italian immigrant Allesio Carraro. Carraro came to Phoenix in 1928 with a dream to build a resort hotel castle surrounded by a deluxe subdivision.

Barbara Stocklin:
He hired an architect from Texas in 1928 who did some drawings that were actually printed in the newspaper, which showed a pretty elaborate, detailed castle.

Narrator:
Carraro purchased 277 acres in an area that was on the outskirts of Phoenix at the time. He envisioned his hotel castle encircled by a lush, exotic cactus garden.

Rilée LeBlanc:
He wanted an instant desert paradise that he could come and enjoy every day. That's why he planted them so densely because he wanted -- he just loved it. And we want to be able to share this experience with other people for several generations to come.

Narrator:
The site, however, was mostly solid granite. With his son, Leo, and hired workers, Carraro used a leveler and rock crusher to grind the granite into gravel for walkways. Another local resource was used in the garden.

Barbara Stocklin:
When you walk around the cactus gardens, you'll see all these river stones that are painted white. He apparently sent his crews down to the Salt River, and his son says it was something like 2,600 truckloads of river rocks from the Salt River .

Narrator:
The 1929 Stock Market Crash forced Carraro to scale back, simplify his construction, and be resourceful, using recycled materials inside.

Barbara Stocklin:
The maple floors came from other -- at least one other building that was being demolished in Phoenix . The kitchen cabinets came from a bank that was being remodeled, Phoenix National Bank downtown.

Narrator:
Another salvaged item from the Phoenix National Bank:
a vault placed in the basement as a Wine Cellar. Also in the basement, this unique pulled plaster ceiling presents an eerie feeling.

Mark Lamm:
Yeah, I think it's part of that basement thing. Basements have that kind of a musty feeling...you know, the light isn't as good. And in this one, you really feel like you're underground because of that pulled plaster ceiling.

Narrator:
Today, the interior of the Castle remains much like when Carraro built it.

Barbara Stocklin:
The walls are all plaster. He did stencil borders that are on this floor as well as Art Deco light fixtures that are throughout the building, and they remain. He also had some very decorative plaster work that was done by some Italian plaster workers who were in Phoenix at the time to work on the interiors of the Orpheum Theater.

Narrator:
Carraro drew attention to the Castle by lighting it up in grand style.

Mark Lamm:
Apparently, they went around and they dipped all the light bulbs in colored paint -- you know, red, blue, green for Christmas. And then they strapped the Christmas Tree to the flagpole on the top of the Castle and the Christmas Tree was all lit up.

Narrator:
But Carraro's dream of a hotel resort would never come to be. His neighbor, E.A. Tovrea, had a stockyard nearby. The stockyard stench would no doubt deter and disturb future guests. Carraro had one hope:
the property between the stockyard and his castle was for sale and could serve as a buffer.

Mark Lamm:
That property was owned by a man, Dolph Bates, who lived in Globe. E.A. Tovrea and Carraro were both vying to buy that property from Mr. Bates. Leo swears that his dad was offering the same money that Tovrea was, but for some reason the land was sold to the Tovreas, and Tovreas immediately put in sheep pens.

Narrator:
Exasperated, Carraro put his Castle up for sale. Through a real estate agent, it was sold to an anonymous buyer in 1931, and Carraro moved to San Francisco . That buyer turned out to be E.A. Tovrea. Tovrea bought the castle for his wife, Della.

Mark Lamm:
We believe that it was Della that was behind it. I mean, they had what would have been a very nice home at the time over here at 48th street and Van Buren. Della wanted the Castle on the hill, which really wasn't as modern a building, but they bought the Castle and immediately moved into the Castle. And within about nine months of moving into the castle, E.A. passed away, and it left Della living here alone.

Narrator:
Della Tovrea lived there until 1969, when burglars broke into her Castle and assaulted her.

Mark Lamm:
She slept on a cot in the kitchen and heard them come in upstairs. She also carried a pistol with her to scare people off the property. She fired the pistol through the ceiling in the kitchen to try to scare them off, but it didn't. She was tied up and beaten up in the robbery and passed away a couple of months later.

Narrator:
The Castle sat little used for decades. In 1993, the City of Phoenix , realizing its value to Arizona , began the process of acquiring the property.

Barbara Stocklin:
You wouldn't see this in New England, you wouldn't see this in Texas or California . It's a place that's just truly Phoenix .

Narrator:
The City of Phoenix is committed to the restoration and preservation of the Tovrea Castle and its gardens, making this unique bit of Arizona history a place the public can again enjoy.

Mark Lamm:
Carraro built this to bring people out here. It was a very public place. He even had botanical names on plants in the garden. People were welcome to walk through the garden. But when the Tovreas bought it, it was never really open to the public. Very few people ever saw it, so it was always this mysterious building on the hill.