News / Tovrea Castle to open in Phoenix for tours Saturday


Tovrea Castle to open in Phoenix for tours Saturday

10 commentsby Sadie Jo Smokey - Nov. 4, 2009 10:32 AM

The Arizona Republic

Wearing leather work gloves, jeans and tennis shoes, the Carraro family was back at the former family homestead spreading decomposed granite on an interpretative trail.
As part of the UPS Global Volunteer Month, UPS employee Michele Carraro-Smith, her father Frank, sister Kim, and brother-in-law Gene Head, were putting the finishing touches on landscaping at the cactus garden at Tovrea Castle
at Carraro Heights.
"It was my grandfather’s and dad’s castle," Frank said. "This was their dream, and they worked on it. They finished it in 1929 and sold it in 1931."
Frank said his grandfather Alessio Carraro came to San Francisco from Italy. Carraro helped rebuild the city after the 1906 earthquake and fire, made his fortune and moved to Phoenix.
After building the castle, and planting hundreds of cactus and succulents, Alessio sold the castle and grounds to neighbor and stockyard mogul Edward A. Tovrea.
"The Tovreas used to invite us to visit every year," Michele said. "We used to hear stories about the tunnels and the vault in the basement."
Tom Waldeck, executive director of Keep Phoenix Beautiful, said the 60 UPS employees completed a yearlong project in less than three hours.
Using photos from the early 1930s, when the castle was new, Phoenix Parks and Recreation staff has been working for years to slowly restore the garden. Monthly tours allow visitors to see the garden and help support the restoration, gardener Jason Johnson said.
"The gardens are restored, but there is still a lot more to plant," Johnson said. "We’re replacing the plants the rabbits get. We’re working on a lot of different projects."
Frank said he and the family were honored by the new name of the landmark site which recognizes both pioneer families.
"I’m sure my father and grandfather would be very pleased," Frank said. "There used to be a streetcar going down Washington Street that said Carraro Heights. That’s a neat thing to happen."
The first tour of the season is Saturday.
Timeline of Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights
1928: Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro buys 277 acres north of the Salt River along Van Buren Street for $68,000.
1928-29: Cactus gardens built by Russian gardener M. Moktatchev.
1929-31: Carraro starts building a hotel, which looks like an Italian medieval castle.
1931: Castle completed, but Carraro has financial troubles. The 44-acre castle site is bought by E.A. Tovrea, who moves in with wife, Della.
1932: E.A. Tovrea dies. Della Tovrea lives in castle full time.
1936: Della Tovrea marries Prescott Courier owner William P. Stuart. Couple split time between Prescott and the castle.
1960: William P. Stuart dies and Della Tovrea lives in the castle full time.
1968: Thieves break into the castle, steal valuables and assault Tovrea. She dies from her injuries in 1969. The land is eventually split among Tovrea heirs.
1989: Voters approve city bond, which set aside $5 million to buy Tovrea Castle, a small part of the grounds and to fund garden restoration.
1989: Restoration of 20-acre garden begins.
1990: Castle listed on city historic property registry.
1993: First of several city land purchases to acquire the nearly 44 acres around the castle. The city continues to buy land through 2009.
1996: Castle put on the National Register of Historic Places.
2001: Bond passes that set aside $4.5 million for castle restoration and more land purchases.
2005: Major renovations begin but stop for two-and-a-half years.
2006: City voters pass a bond that sets aside $5 million for Tovrea Castle land purchases. City does more restoration of the garden. Workers eventually plant hundreds of cactuses.
2007: Castle restoration begins again.
June: Castle restoration complete. Planning begins for visitors’ ticket booth, bathrooms and parking lot.
November: Guided tours
of the garden begin.
Fall 2010: Projected park opening date.