As a kid, I always called it The Birthday Cake Castle. I remember hearing about a man who bought the home for his wife, and I always thought it was a gift for her birthday, in the shape of a cake. I might have added my romantic spin on it, but to me it was the most mysterious place and I wanted to see what it looked like inside. It was actually built by a man from Italy named Alessio Carraro, who meant to develop a resort community, with the castle as a hotel. He did not finish his dream, and in 1931 the castle was purchased by E.A. Tovrea and his wife, Della. E.A. died a year after purchasing the home, but Della lived in the castle until 1969 upon her death. The City of Phoenix purchased the property in 1993 from the Tovrea Estate, and it is now run solely by volunteers. AMAZING! The castle became open to tours just last year and I had the privilege to take a peak and photograph some of my favorite parts to share with you. It only took me 30 years, but it was well worth the wait, I think. I hope you get a chance to visit it yourself! Plan ahead, because tours sell out months in advance. Don't forget to thank the volunteers that maintain the property solely for their love of Arizona history. As a freelance photographer, there is nothing more fun than being commissioned for an event or wedding at a beautiful place like Tovrea Castle.
By now you might be thinking I'm overdoing pictures of the castle, but I was really excited to be there! Take a look at this "guest house". We were lucky enough to see a visitor there that day. The white rocks really add to the dimension of the castle, don't they?
So, we finally parked the golf cart and I was standing at the front door, with our tour guide. I met a sweet nine year old girl, who was asked to ring the bell. We walked around the back to go inside the first floor. I couldn't wait!
Once inside, my eyes went straight for the views out the windows. The cactus and mountains were all around. I could just imagine what it must have felt like with a view of just the desert and mountains before the rest of the world arrived. Now the shape of the castle made sense to me. It was a panoramic view, with a lookout point at the very top. Unfortunately, the top two floors are closed to visitors. Our tour guide said he was permitted to go up once and tried to make me feel better by saying it wasn't that much different than the floor we were on. There is a computerized 3D view to skim through, so you can get the idea. Notice the texture of the fireplace and the Arizona flag design on the floor. Also something to notice was the outline of the bulls on the walls. Apparently that was E.A. Tovrea's thing.
The best part was the basement! The ceiling looked like melted marshmallows, and there was a sense of history there. Unlike the typical basement, the hallways all led to amazing desert views all around. The door to the wine cellar was impressive.
Della Tovrea's story ends a bit sadly. She was robbed by two men while in her home, and died a few weeks after. Our tour guide said she wasn't physically harmed during the robbery, however, she never fully recovered after that ordeal. One of the thief's were caught and some of her belongings recovered. There was so much information about the history of this castle, that I think I need to go through that tour again. I hope I did it justice and I hope the Carraro vision will live on and develop further one day.