For years, I have been visiting family in the Phoenix area and it was on this most recent trip that I learned the bittersweet history of Tovrea Castle.
Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro left San Francisco and headed to Phoenix, Arizona in 1928. It was there he purchased 277 acres of barren land with plans to build a desert resort on it called Carraro Heights. For two years, Carraro, his son and their crew fashioned the landscape into a beautiful desert oasis. They crowned the land’s highest point with a beautiful tiered wedding cake-like structure. Alas, Carraro’s desert resort dream was dashed in 1930 when his surrounding neighbors began raising cattle and sheep to supply product for the Tovrea family’s meat packing plant.
In 1931, Carraro realized he couldn’t have a resort next to smelly feedlots or a slaughterhouse, he unknowingly sold the structure and land to Ms. Della Tovrea. Apparently, Ms. Tovrea had fancied Carraro’s tiered castle and sent a buyer to San Francisco to surreptitiously purchase it all from him. After her husband’s death in 1932, she took seasonal residence in what is now known as “Tovrea Castle” for the next 38 years.
Tovrea Castle is now owned by the City of Phoenix and it has recently been opened up for two hour weekend-only public tours hosted by the nonprofit organization, Tovrea Carraro Society. Online panoramic and restoration images are available too. The castle is located at 5041 E. Van Buren Street in Phoenix, Arizona.
photos by Rusty Blazenhoff