Phoenix for History Buffs
When compared to other US cities, Phoenix is a fairly young city. Formally Incorporated as a US city in 1881, Phoenix has its own rich history worth sharing and preserving. Whether you are a Valley resident or a guest visiting Phoenix, the historical landmarks throughout Phoenix are truly worth seeing and exploring.
Tovrea Castle & Carraro Cactus Garden
5041 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ. 85034 (602) 262-6412
The Tovrea Castle and Gardens were constructed in 1928 by an Italian immigrant, Alessio Carraro. Carraro moved to settle in Phoenix after selling his San Francisco based sheet metal business, purchased the 277acres of desert land, and began constructing the castle and surrounding gardens.
The gardens were designed by Carraro and developed by a skilled Russian gardener named Moktachev. Carraro, his son, and about 20 men worked for 2 years clearing the desert and constructing the unusual wedding cake-shaped castle. Carraro’s dreams of remote desert oasis ended as neighboring landowners began purchasing the nearby land for private use. In 1931 Carraro sold the estate to the Tovrea family. Della Tovrea remained the owner of the castle and gardens until her death in 1969 and the Tovrea Family Trust assumed control of the property. Years of neglect caused the property to deteriorate until 1993 when the property was purchased by the city of Phoenix. The city went on to purchase 36 more of the castles surrounding acres and began the task of refurbishing and preserving the Tovrea Castle and Carraro Cactus Garden.
The Wrigley Mansion – Phoenix
2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix, AZ. 85016 (602) 955-4079
The Wrigley Mansion is one of Phoenix’s most notable landmarks. The mansion was built by chewing gum king William Wrigley Jr. in 1932 at a cost of $1.2 million dollars. Quite fittingly, the mansion was named by Wrigley “La Colina Solana” or, the sunny hill because of its location atop a 100-foot hill with sweeping views of the Valley’s mountains and the city. The architecture is reflected in Spanish, California Monterey, and Mediterranean influences with an elegance unmatched by any other historical Phoenix structure.
The mansion is an impressive 16,850 square feet, with 24 rooms and 12 bathrooms, yet it was in fact the smallest of Wrigley’s five homes. The rooms are marked by lavish tile work, clay walls, and balconies and terraces. The home was designed to impress visiting dignitaries and members of high-society and no expense was spared in the creation and decoration of the home down to the tiniest of details. The Wrigley’s eventually passed on and after several changes of hands, the property was purchased in July 1992 by George A. Hormel, one of the heirs to the Hormel meatpacking family. Hormel founded the Wrigley Mansion Club, which has dedicated great effort to the preservation of the mansion for future generations. The Wrigley Mansion is open to the public for private functions and fine dining.
Historic Heritage Square
115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix, AZ. 85004 (602) 262-5029
Historic Heritage Square on of “Phoenix’s Points of Pride”, offers visitors a glimpse into Phoenix’s Victorian past. Contained in the one square city block are the only remaining residential structures from the original Phoenix townsite. The collection of homes, carriage houses, and commercial structures date as far back as the late 1800s. Some of the structures have been converted to restaurants and shops allowing guests to relax and enjoy the architecture.
The Rosson House built in 1985, is the largest home on the block and the most elaborate. Other homes and structures include Forest’s Carriage House (1881), The Duplex (1923), The Carriage House (1900), The Silva House (1906), The Bouvier-Teeter House (1899), The Baird Machine Shop (1929), The Thomas House (1909), The Stevens-Haustgen House (1901), and The Stevens House (1901). Tours are offered regularly where visitors can hear detailed information about the history of each home or building.
St. Mary’s Basilica
Third and Monroe streets 602-252-7651
St. Mary’s Basilica was founded in 1881 by a French missionary, Father Edouard Gerard. This Roman Catholic Basilica is the oldest Catholic church building in Phoenix and by many accounts the most beautiful. The mixture of southwestern design with French and Spanish influences melded to create a structure that truly stands out in the Phoenix downtown.
There is a rich history here, as the Basilica has seen its share of historic occurrences, including a visit in September 1987 by the late Pope John Paul II. Mass is still said daily at St. Mary’s and tourists and visitors come to admire the beautiful stained glass windows, carillon tower, French shrines, and gift shop. St. Mary’s is still an active Roman Catholic church where Mass is said on a daily basis.