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Phoenix officials unsure when castle will reopen

The city of Phoenix owns a castle and has spent millions fixing it up.

There’s still more work to be done on the Tovrea Castle near Papago Park in east Phoenix, and city officials aren’t sure when it will be open to the public.

It could be a year before visitors are allowed to tour the wedding-cake shaped house owned by cattle baron E.A. Tovrea.

The installation of modern restrooms, a visitor ticket booth and a parking lot is still to come, at a cost to Phoenix taxpayers of $1.4 million.

Phoenix has spent 20 years acquiring the landmark and the 44 acres around it.

Originally, the city thought it would take $5 million to restore the castle built in 1931. City records show that to date, Phoenix has spent about $15 million renovating Tovrea Castle along with buying up nearby property.

In the 1980s, “no one really knew what this was going to cost,” said Dale Larsen, director of the city’s Parks Department. “And there really was no legitimate research and fact-finding to understand the whole thing.”

Finding the funds to operate the castle is another question. This year, Phoenix cut millions in city services to close a historic budget gap.

“Our budget situation will not allow us to significantly add positions,” said Larsen, adding that the current department budget is “in crisis-management mode.”

Phoenix has the cash to maintain the castle grounds, but there’s no extra money to provide staffing for tours or to handle castle visitors. The city is exploring several options, including using volunteers or nonprofit help.

Restoring the old house has been a tremendous task, said Barbara Stocklin, the city’s historic preservation officer.

The basement walls were wet from leaking water. Some ceilings had holes.

Workers stripped asbestos from the house. Some wood floors were pulled up so that workers could install metal support beams. Hundreds of cactuses were planted around the castle.

City crews have done a wonderful job saving the castle, said Philip Tovrea III, great-grandson of E.A. Tovrea and the castle’s former caretaker.

“It’s the answer to my dreams,” Tovrea said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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