Photos: Historic Tovrea Castle to open for tours

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- If you have ever driven along the Loop 202 around Van Buren Street, you've probably seen that wedding-cake looking castle, sitting atop a hill, surrounded by desert. What is it and why is it there?

It's the Tovrea Castle and Bonnie Ball, a spokesperson for the Tovrea-Carraro Society, says the 3,700-square-foot castle was built in 1928 by Alessio Carraro, an Italian immigrant. His initial plan was to build a resort-style neighborhood with a hotel surrounded by a cactus garden and resort homes.

Carraro's dream of a desert resort community faded when he sold the home and land in 1930 to Edward R. Tovrea, owner of a nearby meat-packing company. Noisy and smelly sheep pens located on property next to Carraro's property was also one of the reasons Carraro decided to sell his castle and land.

The Tovrea family owned the castle for decades until the city of Phoenix bought it in 1993 through a bond election. the plan was to restore the run down castle and its surrounding cactus gardens.

During the 2005 budget cuts, the city's restoration money ran out. Just over a year ago, a small group of volunteers got together and decided to form a non-profit organization that would help complete castle restorations. Part of their plan was to eventually open up the castle for public tours. Thus, the Tovrea-Carraro Society was created.

Now, with restorations completed, the Tovrea-Carraro Society says they can finally start tours on March 10. Tickets will be $15 per person.

During the two-hour tour, you can expect to watch a 13-minute video presentation in the new visitor's center, ride a tram through the 44 acres of cactus gardens up to the castle, and, after putting booties on your feet, tour the main and basement floors of the castle.

For more information on the tours and if you'd like to volunteer for the Tovrea-Carraro Society, you can go to their website at