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Odds and Ends

March 23, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

For this week’s post, we’ll be covering a little bit of everything.

This year being Arizona’s centennial, numerous tours and events are showcasing the history of the state, with many long-dormant structures seeing their first activity in years.

First, in preservation and renovation news, Tovrea Castle and Hayden Flour Mill

Tovrea Castle

Photo Courtesy of Flickr user koiart71

What is that? Is that Wrigley Mansion? Mystery Castle?

These are the questions I often hear from tourists and retirees (and even natives!) on the light rail as they pass this fabled cake-like structure near 52nd Street and Van Buren in Phoenix.

The property’s true origins lie in Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro, who arrived in Phoenix via San Francisco in 1928 as a successful sheet metal manufacturer, gold miner, and land developer. Carraro purchased the Castle’s current property with aspirations to turn it into a high-end resort and housing project, banking on the area’s potential for growth.

After two years of construction, the crown jewel of the development was completed: what we now know as Tovrea Castle.

Sadly though, a change in fate caused Carraro to sell the central structure and surrounding land to E.A. Tovrea and his family, who kept the property as a private residence.

In 1993, after falling into disrepair, the Castle was purchased by the City of Phoenix; a property that had since become a locus for lore in the city.

Beginning in 1998, the City began restoring the gardens surrounding the property to their former grandeur. 13 years and thousands of dollars in private donations and public bonds later, Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights is open to the public for the first time ever.

Since the beginning of March, the Castle has been offering two tours each Saturday and Sunday of the historic structure’s ground floor and basement, along with the surrounding gardens. Most recently, as the tours have gained popularity and recognition, the Tovrea Carraro Society (the non-profit which oversees the property) has issued a call for volunteers to provide tours for the thousands of curious Phoenix residents, tourists and passersby who have long marveled at the Valley’s most famous “cake.”

Hayden Flour Mill

Photo Courtesy of Flickr user kevin dooley

Since 1874, a Hayden Flour Mill has stood along the Salt River (along today’s Mill Avenue) in Tempe.

Town pioneer Charles Trumbull Hayden brought industry to the land near the roaring river in the late 19th century, rebuilding his mill from scratch twice following devastating fires, eventually ending up with the property’s current cast-in-place concrete structure, completed in 1917. Across three generations, the mill remained in continuous operation, finally ceasing operations totally in 1998.

Since the mill’s closing, the City of Tempe has fielded numerous proposals to redevelop the Downtown landmark and make it a true icon for the city.

After several development failures and another fire on the property, the City and Downtown Tempe Community Inc. decided to take matters into their own hands, helping fund a facelift for the building’s exterior and grounds, creating a temporary use for the property as a public space and events venue.

Over the past few months, construction crews have been working on the ground floor of the Mill, making it viewable to the public, while putting in public art and making room for the Tempe Urban Garden—previously located adjacent to the City Hall parking garage.

The facelift is aimed to reignite interest in the property, and engage the public in what should be a major historic landmark, rather than an eyesore for visitors to the vibrant Mill Avenue district.

Upcoming Events

The Reincarnation Tour

March is Eco Month for the American Institute of Architects. To celebrate, the AIA’s Arizona chapter has programmed an entire month of events, culminating in the Reincarnation Tour of adaptively reused properties throughout Downtown Phoenix.

The daylong event begins at 11a.m. at FilmBar with an hourlong community panel discussion on adaptive reuse in Phoenix, featuring such luminaries as Michael Levine, Taz Loomans, and Cindy Dach. Following the discussion, attendees will be led through dozens of historic structures across Downtown for drinks, food and entertainment. See all the details for this FREE event on Facebook.

Check back next week for a review (with photos!) of the tour and discussion.

Modern Phoenix Week

Eight years running, Modern Phoenix Week is back in the Valley! Beginning tonight with an art opening at Phoenix Metro Retro, Phoenix and Scottsdale will be alive with midcentury modern design.

Numerous tours, lectures and openings will all culminate in the annual Expo and Seminars on Saturday the 31st, and the Home Tour on Sunday the 1st. The festivities will be taking place all over town, so make sure to check modernphoenix.net throughout the week for updates and programming information.

Check back in two weeks for a full review of the Modern Phoenix Expo and Seminars.


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