If you are in Phoenix and drive on the AZ-202 you can’t help but notice the Tovrea Castle. The castle is a three-story yellow building resembling a wedding cake that sits atop a saguaro filled hill overlooking the freeway.
For years anytime the husband and I drove the 202 he would mention wanting to investigate the building. One day we even detoured off the highway and drove around the neighborhood until we found the location, surrounded by fences and Property of Phoenix signs. One of the signs however, was a plaque from the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission listing the name of the building. Who knew the property had a name? Armed with this new information I was able to go home and start doing research on how to gain access.
The City of Phoenix owns the property but the non-profit volunteer organization the Tovrea Carraro Society has been authorized to operate the castle on behalf of the city, including giving tours of the property.
Tours are very small, 14 people maximum and given twice a day Friday, Saturday and Sunday except in July and August when the castle is closed. Tours book quickly. I had to purchase my tickets 7 months in advance.
The tour is approximately two hours long and includes the grounds, cactus gardens and the castle’s main floor and basement. The volunteer docent’s greet you at the visitor center and drive you around the grounds in an oversized golf cart stopping several times to explain the history and allow for photographs. Once at the castle be prepared to remove your shoes as they are not allowed inside in an effort to preserve the flooring, but booties are provided.
The original owner of the property intended for the 5,000 square foot castle built between 1928 and 1930 to be a hotel, but it never opened. The property changed hands two years after completion and became a private residence until 1969, then sat dormant until 1993 when the City of Phoenix acquired the property.
The first floor tour includes the parlor, living room and kitchen. Despite the actual square footage of the property, the living space is actually quite small.
The basement serves as the gift shop and has original building materials, including doorknobs, lighting fixtures, blasting cans and wood trim, and a bank vault that served as a family safe on display. Three tunnels also leave the basement and lead outside.
The docent’s are extremely knowledgeable about the history of the property and do a great job sharing the information in a way that keeps your interest. More information about the castle and tour schedules can be found on the Tovrea Castle website.
Photo Credit: Coldshot Photography