Sunday, January 12, 2014

Phoenix, AZ - Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights

The Tovrea Castle has been a landmark in Phoenix since the 1920s.  It was originally designed to be a hotel oasis in the desert, but never made it to the state.  The original designer, builder and owner was Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro.  Much happened over the years, intrigue, mystery, land and cattle barons, etc.  (Read about it on the website at the bottom of this post.)  It survived as a home, quite a large home.

In October I saw an advertisement stating that tours were now available for the Castle.  I rustled up a few friends and family, and a group was scheduled to tour in January.  Our tour was at 8:30am, and I put a call out for a "photography session" to meet at sunrise to see if we could get any golden hour photos.

Here is my view of the tour.  Our sunrise lit a cloudy morning sky.

The castle sits on raised ground between Van Buren Street and Washington Street.  We started at the Visitor's Center located off of Van Buren Street to see a short film on the history of the property.  We then hopped in to golf carts to wind our way to the top.
 A marker sits on one of the platformed areas.  A pyramid, our every classic shape.
The rock is from the nearby Salt River.  Part of it is white washed to our line paths.  Behind the Saguaro cactus and the plain colored wall is a pool of some sorts.  Looks like a "person pool" as it has steps and what appears to be a table (drink perch?) in the center.
 The guides said that it is uncertain what this area was used for.  This reminded me of the trip to Delos (click here to see the post of the ruins in Delos).
 As we drive higher along the dirt road, we had great views of the Castle.  The clouds were also disappearing and the sky turning a brilliant blue.  This is a great background to the light tones of the Castle.
 This is a well house.  The story is that when the property owners tasted water from this well, it was very sweet.  The well is no longer in use.
 This is the main entrance to the hotel/home.  You can also see here that there are three levels above ground and that each one gets smaller then the one below, leaving a nice all around walkway.  If you look closely, you can see white exposed light bulbs at each level.  These lights add to the outline of the Castle when lit at night.
 The Carraro Cactus Gardens have a wide range of species and is very beautiful. The guide said that future walking tours are in the plans.  Each type of cacti is labeled, which is very nice for visitors to the Garden.  The original garden was designed by a Russian by the name of "Motka".  You can read more about the garden here.
 There is a large bell at the front. It is working and makes quite a loud CLANG CLANG.
 The front patio featured a bench.  The legs were covered in the front by rocks with Native American carvings.
 This is the main room on the first floor, reached through the back door.  This has been restored by the City of Phoenix and is very authentic to the original design.  Stencils provided decorations on the walls.
 This is a close-up of the ceiling lights and the stenciling.  Most of the original light covers remain with only a few requiring replacement.  I couldn't tell which ones were the old and the new.
 This is the stenciling on the wall of this main room.
 A tea set that was used by the family is on display.  (I like this!!)
 A fireplace is also in this room.  The guide said that the craftsman gave this as a gift.  The dancer artwork is similar to what is found at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix.
 A second smaller room is at the front of the Castle, and served as a reception area, perhaps to check in.  Light sconces are on all of the walls.
 The wall stencils feature a prosperous pineapple.
 The kitchen is off to the side of the reception room.  This is the fancy blue kitchen sink.
 The cabinets were recycled teller windows from a bank in downtown Phoenix.  The builder, Carrara, was very "sustainable" and liked to reuse and repurpose materials.
 We left the building and circled to the side to enter the basement.  The ceiling is the most amazing texture.  This technique was originally used and when the renovation took place, the craftsmen followed the original design.

 This is an old sign that was on the wall.
 The first item that was put in the house was this safe from the local bank.  The foundation had been dug and then the safe doors were set in place.  The builder then knew how high to make the basement ceiling.  This was thought to be intended as a wine cellar.
 There are several side exits that the guests used to visit the garden.  Also at this level is a window that opens to the outside.  When the windows of the house were opened, and the basement portal, a cool breeze went through the house. Natural air conditioning.
I recommend that you schedule a tour and see this landmark.  Tours are only conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at this point, and only have room for 12 people per tour.  Book in advance.

Check the website to see if any of my information has changed and to see details for booking the tour.
Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights

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