Filed Under cattle

Tovrea Stockyards

When Edward A. Tovrea opened his stockyard operation in 1919, its location was far removed from the neighborhoods and commercial districts of Phoenix. Tovrea's impressive sprawling complex processed more than 300,000 head of cattle every year. The odiferous nature of Tovrea's enterprise soon began to pose serious challenges to surrounding development.

Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro initiated construction of an architecturally unique resort on a hilltop adjacent to the Tovrea property in 1928. Though well-planned and skillfully built, the wedding cake-like structure ,now known as Tovrea Castle, stood little chance of success as a place of lodging given its proximity to the foul smelling neighboring sheep and cattle lot. Defeated, Carraro abandoned his dream and sold the then uncompleted project to the Tovrea family in 1931.

Similar challenges would plague J. Parker Van Zandt's nearby airport project, although the outcome was very different. Opened in 1929 as a base of operations for Van Zandt's Scenic Airways and acquired by the City of Phoenix in 1935, the airfield was often jokingly referred to as "The Farm" due to its location outside of the city. The rapid post-World War II growth of the Valley brought development to the area around Tovrea's cattle yard and the bustling airports. Nonetheless, the airport retained some degree of rural feeling as a result of the overpowering stench of manure wafting westward from the expansive Tovrea feedlot. When combined with the blistering Arizona sun, the potent aroma provided visitors and newly arrived residents deplaning at Sky Harbor with a quick and altogether unpleasant introduction to the Valley. This Chamber of Commerce nightmare continued throughout most of the 1950s, during which time the population of Phoenix increased by more than three hundred percent. Economic factors brought about the closure of the foul smelling cattle lot in the late 1950s, thereby preventing future Sky Harbor arrivals from being greeted with the unforgettable aroma of cattle waste and the stench of a noxious rendering plant.


The Unforgettable Aroma of Beef Based on a story told by Joan Fudala. Written by Amy T. Long; narrated by Jill Clements. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of the Papago Salado Association.


E. A. Tovrea Butcher Shop
E. A. Tovrea Butcher Shop Workers Posing Outside E.A. Tovrea & Co. butchery early in the 20th century. Image Courtesy of the Urbain Sahaque Photograph Collection, Arizona State University Libraries, Department of Archives and Special Collections. OBTAIN PERMISSION
Cattle grazing in Phoenix, 1908
Cattle grazing in Phoenix, 1908 Early settlers to Phoenix experimented with a variety of agricultural industries, including grazing cattle, shown south of Camelback Mountain early in the 20th century. Image Courtesy of Panoramic Photographic Collection, Library of Congress.
Postcard Showing Tovrea's Stockyards, ca. 1940s
Postcard Showing Tovrea's Stockyards, ca. 1940s The unmistakable physical and olfactory presence of the Tovrea sheep and cattle operation dominated its surroundings for several decades. Opened by Edward A. Tovrea in 1919, the enterprise was billed as the world's largest feedlot. Operating in a largely unpopulated area, the economically significant Tovrea yards were a point of pride for many Phoenicians. However, the post-World War II increase in air travel to Phoenix and the associated expansion of Sky Harbor placed the economic importance of the stockyards in direct competition with the post-war prosperity driven by tourism and population growth. Local boosters grew increasingly frustrated with the overbearing stench emanating from the facility located so near city's airport. Ultimately, the feedlot operation drew to a close in the late 1950s, leaving only the highly-regarded Stockyards Restaurant as a reminder of Tovrea's highly pungent cattle business. Image courtesy of Stockyards Restaurant.
Tovrea Castle Under Construction, 1929
Tovrea Castle Under Construction, 1929 While Tovrea's operation proved to be a post-World War II headache for city boosters due to its proximity to Sky Harbor, the odiferous enterprise first disrupted the ambitious plans of would-be hotelier and neighboring landowner Alessio Carraro. Facing financial hardship and the daunting prospect of operating a successful resort next to a working feedlot, the Italian immigrant sold his hilltop structure now known as Tovrea Castle to the cattle magnate in 1931. Image courtesy City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation.
Cattle Pens, 1940
Cattle Pens, 1940 The cattle pens of the Tovrea stockyards covered a vast area of what is now Papago Park in the years preceding World War II, as shown in the Farm Service Administration photograph. Image Courtesy of the Farm Service Administration, Library of Congress.



John Larsen Southard and Mark Tebeau, “Tovrea Stockyards,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 24, 2024,