4 Castles You Can Find in Phoenix

Researching one castle in Phoenix, Arizona, led to the discovery of another castle, which led to another. How many castles can one city in the American desert have? At least four, and all with interesting stories behind them.


Boyce Luther Gulley of Seattle enjoyed building sand castles with his young daughter Mary Lou. He told her that someday, he’d build her a real castle. In 1929, when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Gulley didn’t tell his wife Frances about his illness, but left home for Arizona as so many TB patients did. He led Frances to believe he had left to pursue a dream of becoming an artist. What he really did was build the castle he promised Mary Lou. Gulley spent 15 years constructing his castle on 40 acres near Phoenix, using recycled and found objects as construction material and junk to make it interesting. In 1945, as Gulley was near death from cancer, he wrote his wife and daughter about the castle and revealed that he had left them all those years ago not because he wanted to be an artist, but because he wanted to protect them from his tuberculosis. He died before they arrived in Phoenix.

Mary Lou Gulley was 22 when she moved into the castle with her mother, and soon after they began giving tours of their home. Mary Lou continued to do so until her death in 2010. The Mystery Castle has 18 rooms (all built on different levels), 13 fireplaces, winding staircases, arches, and peculiar ornamentation. It is built of native stone, and is said to be held together by a mortar made of cement, calcium, and goat milk. It is open for tours Thursday through Sunday from October through May.


Tony the Marine via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Tovrea Castle at Carrero Heights in Phoenix is also called the “wedding cake house” because its diminishing stories give it the appearance of a layered wedding cake. It was built by Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro as a hotel for his planned desert resort. Construction was completed in 1930, but there were problems. The stock market crash in 1929 not only forced Carraro to cut back on some of his extravagant plans, it also cut into tourism. And then there was the nearby stockyard owned by E.A. Tovrea. Carraro knew the stockyard would repel visitors, so he hoped to buy the land between his hotel and the stockyard. Tovrea managed to buy it instead, and put livestock corrals on it.

Carraro gave up on his resort, and put the castle on the market in 1931. It was purchased by an anonymous buyer who turned out to be Carraro’s nemesis, E.A. Tovrea, the owner of the stockyard. He'd bought the home for his wife, Delia.

David Crummey via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

E.A. passed away a few months later. Delia lived in the house until 1969, when she was beaten by intruders and died of her injuries a couple of months later. The castle remained empty for decades until the city of Phoenix bought it in 1993. Tovres Castle is open for tours on a limited schedule, and reservations are recommended.


Tony the Marine via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

When he was moving to California in 1948, Dr. Kenneth Hall’s car broke down in Arizona. But rather than go on to his original destination, he decided to put down roots in Phoenix's Sunnyslope neighborhood. There, he opened his own hospital in 1955, which had a private primate zoo on the grounds. In 1963, he began construction on a 65,000 square foot bowling alley, which was designed to resemble a Moorish castle. He called it El Cid.

The building took 17 years to complete, and before it could open Hall’s medical practice began falling apart. A baboon escaped from the zoo in 1967, and police were summoned to shoot the animal. Then, after four patients died during gastric bypass surgery, Hall's medical license was revoked in 1971. He pled guilty to charges of diverting Medicare funds in 1974.

Tony the Marine via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The El Cid bowling alley finally opened in 1981, but it closed just a year later. Hall sold the building to pay a malpractice claim, and the castle was sold and resold, used as a furniture store, church, and most notably, a sports complex for several years. The Castle Sports Club, as it was known then, provided room for roller skating, boxing, volleyball, hockey, and other activities. Building code violations forced the facility to close in 2010, and in 2014, the building was purchased by Arizona’s Department of Economic Security. The state has remodeled El Cid to the extent that it no longer resembles a castle.


Copenhaver Castle on Red Rock Road in Phoenix is also called Camelback Castle, because it was built on the south side of Camelback Mountain. Dr. Mort Copenhaver, an orthodontist, bought the property in 1967 and spent more than a decade building his castle. The 7000-square-foot house was inspired by a Spanish fortress Copenhaver had seen in a movie; the castle has 20 rooms, including five bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms. There are four fireplaces, a waterfall over the fireplace in the main living room, three garages, ten balconies, and a billiard room. More traditional castle features include a drawbridge, moat, dungeon, and secret passageways.

Copenhaver tried to sell the castle in 1985, but there were no takers; he eventually lost it in bankruptcy proceedings. Jerry Mitchell bought the castle in 1989 for less than a million dollars and began to call it Camelback Castle. He battled bankruptcy as well, and put the castle on the market again for $10 million in 2004, but with no buyers, the price dropped over the years while the castle stood empty. In 2012, Robert Pazderka bought it for $1.45 million; he said he planned to remodel the castle.

Futuristic New Street Toilets Are Coming to San Francisco

San Francisco’s streets are getting shiny new additions: futuristic-looking public toilets. Co.Design reports that San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has chosen a new design for self-cleaning street toilets by the architectural firm SmithGroupJJR that will eventually replace the city’s current public toilets.

The design is a stark contrast to the current San Francisco toilet aesthetic, a green knockoff of Paris’s Sanisettes. (They’re made by the same company that pioneered the Parisian version, JCDecaux.) The tall, curvy silver pods, called AmeniTREES, are topped with green roof gardens designed to collect rainwater that can then be used to flush the toilets and clean the kiosks themselves. They come in several different variations, including a single or double bathroom unit, one with benches, a street kiosk that can be used for retail or information services, and a design that can be topped by a tree. The pavilions also have room for exterior advertising.

Renderings of the silver pod bathrooms from the side and the top

“The design blends sculpture with technology in a way that conceptually, and literally, reflects San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods,” the firm’s design principal, Bill Katz, explained in a press statement. “Together, the varied kiosks and public toilets design will also tell a sustainability story through water re-use and native landscapes.”

San Francisco has a major street-poop problem, in part due to its large homeless population. The city has the second biggest homeless population in the country, behind New York City, and data collected in 2017 shows that the city has around 7500 people living on its streets. Though the city started rolling out sidewalk commodes in 1996, it doesn’t have nearly enough public toilets to match demand. There are only 28 public toilets across the city right now, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

These designs aren’t ready to go straight into construction first—the designers have to work with JCDeaux, which installs the city’s toilets, to adapt them “to the realities of construction and maintenance,” as the Chronicle puts it. Then, those plans will have to be submitted to the city’s arts commission and historic preservation commission before they can be installed.

[h/t Co.Design]

Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten
Dutch City Will Become the World's First to Build Inhabitable 3D-Printed Concrete Houses
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten

A new 3D-printed concrete housing development is coming to the Netherlands in 2019, CNN reports. The structures will be the first habitable 3D-printed concrete houses in the world, according to Project Milestone, the organization behind the initiative.

While architects and engineers have been experimenting with 3D-printed buildings for several years, most of those structures have just been prototypes. The Dutch development, located in Eindhoven, is expected to be ready for its first residents by mid-2019.

Project Milestone is a collaboration between the city of Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, the contractor Van Wijnen, the real estate company Vesteda—which will own and manage the houses—the engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos, and the construction materials company Weber Beamix.

A rendering of boulder-like homes in the middle of a field
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten

The five planned homes will be built one by one, giving the architects and engineers time to adjust their process as needed. The development is expected to be completed over the next five years.

The housing development won’t look like your average residential neighborhood: The futuristic houses resemble massive boulders with windows in them. The first house, scheduled for completion in 2019, will be a 1022-square-foot, three-room home. It will be a single-story house, though all the rest of the homes will have multiple stories. The first house will be built using the concrete printer on the Eindhoven University of Technology’s campus, but eventually the researchers hope to move the whole fabrication process on-site.

In the next few years, 3D-printed houses will likely become more commonplace. A 3D-printed home in Tennessee is expected to break ground sometime later in 2018. One nonprofit is currently trying to raise money to build a development of 100 3D-printed houses in El Salvador within the next two years. And there is already a 3D-printed office building open in Dubai.

In Eindhoven, residents appear to be fairly eager for the development to open. Twenty families have already applied to live in the first home.

You can learn more about the construction process in the video below.

[h/t CNN]


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