When Italian immigrant Allessio Carraro and his Russian landscape gardener “Mokta” Moktachev started building the Tovrea Castle and the surrounding cactus gardens in the 1920’s, they had a exclusive resort in mind. But shortly after completing the project, the neighbors installed a feedlot (there might be no better way to kill the ambiance of a beautiful resort than to have a feedlot next door). So Carraro sold his Italian wedding cake castle and moved on.
The meat packing plant owner (Edward Tovrea) bought the property and his widow Della Tovrea lived there until she died in the late 1960’s. In decline until 1993 when the City of Phoenix bought the property and designated it a Phoenix Point of Pride and listed it on the National Register of Historic Places, it is now (slowly but surely) getting the attention and restoration that will hopefully lead to its opening.
Plans for a public re-opening were scheduled for 2010 but with budget cuts, work has slowed and the project is indefinitely delayed.
Over 43 acres have been set aside for preservation, and in 2006 work began on restoring the gardens. Diseased and dead plants were removed, 352 saguaro cacti were planted, and over 2,000 other cacti relocated. Original pictures of Moktachev’s landscape shows a densely planted and vibrant collection of desert flora. Currently the park includes more than 5,000 individual cacti and over 100 different varieties.
This fantastic restoration project is looking for funding and volunteers. Being involved in my own local restoration project, I can tell you it is exciting to become part of the history of a place. Maybe you are interested?