After extensive renovations, Tovrea Castle, the wedding cake-shaped building that sits atop a hill on the Phoenix-Tempe border, looks better than ever. At least, that’s what pictures of the castle suggest, and pictures are currently the only way to view the historic landmark.
But that could soon change.
The Tovrea Carraro Society, a group of volunteers dedicated to the site, have entered the castle in the “Love A Local Business” competition at Intuit.com, the website of the company behind QuickBooks, TurboTax and Quicken software. The winner, decided by user votes, receives a $25,000 grant.
That $25,000 could go a long way toward opening the 44-acre site to the public.
“We have no money to buy any equipment, no money to buy any supplies,” says Eileen Marrero, the group’s president. “In fact, all the board members chipped in so we could open a checking account.”
The castle is in fifth place in the online contest, but Marrero has first place in her sights.
“We should be able to easily get 5,000, 10,000 votes if we get the word out,” she says.
The castle, long a Valley curiosity just to the east of Loop 202 near Washington Street, was built in the late 1920s by Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro, who intended to turn it into a resort. But when adjacent property was turned into sheep and cattle pens to supply a nearby meat packing factory, Carraro gave up on his dream.
Della Tovrea, whose family owned the factory, bought the castle and surrounding area in 1931. By the 1960s, the property’s gardens were unkempt and the castle was deteriorating. The city of Phoenix purchased it in 1993. In 2006, voters approved a $6.8 million bond program to fund its restoration.
The castle’s interior has been restored, but budget reductions brought on by the economic downturn have suspended tours of the gardens and plans to open the castle. The gates remain closed.
Marrero, whose group partners with the City of Phoenix but receives no government funding, says the public could decide whether or not the landmark opens for tours.
“It’s really just getting the community to step up and make something like this happen,” she says. “The city purchased this property ... with the intentions of creating this historic park for the community, and they’ve restored the castle completely, they’ve restored a lot of the gardens.”
To vote for Tovrea Castle in the “Love a Local Business” contest, go to http://evtnow.com/tovrea. You will be required to choose a screen name and enter your e-mail address. The contest ends Jan. 31. To volunteer with the Tovrea Carraro Society, which is searching for docents and garden helpers, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preston Carter Melbourne-Weaver, a junior studying journalism at Arizona State University, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or email@example.com