Even if you don't know it by heart, you certainly know Tovrea Castle -- the wedding cake-shaped building perched above Loop 202.
Besides being a compelling visual landmark, Tovrea Castle is an eclectic piece of Arizona history. Alessio Carraro, the castle's builder, was an Italian immigrant from San Francisco with a fruitful sheet-metal business, and he wanted his own version of a European castle in his adopted city of Phoenix. He intended to make it into a small hotel and hoped that visitors would then be inspired to buy homesites on the surrounding land.
Even though it never actually opened as a hotel, the castle has features that were built for such a purpose, like an outdoor game court, horseshoe pit, and fish pond, and an annunciator machine in the kitchen that would be used to call attendants to each room.
A man ahead of his time, Carraro enjoyed using recycled and previously used materials in the castle, and several of its features, including dark wood cabinets in the kitchen and a massive safe in the basement, came from the Phoenix National Bank.
In 1932, E.A. Tovrea and his wife, Della, bought the castle from Carraro and left their own marks as designers on the property in the years they spent there.
The 44-acre Tovrea lot contains not just the castle, but several smaller buildings and structures directly related to its operation over the years. Among these is a small cabin occupied by Alessio and Leo Carraro as they built the castle, a well house complete with a signature Carraro sheet metal roof, and the original machine shop, now used by the City of Phoenix and property groundskeepers.
Toward the end of 2010, the Tovrea Castle Society, a nonprofit group, was founded in order to keep the castle available for public appreciation. A visitor's center was built in late 2011, and the castle opened for tours in March 2012 -- so now you can see inside, too.
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