The Stockyards Restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona has been added to the City of Phoenix Historical Register for its role in Arizona’s cattle industry and its old west architectural style. The building is also reported to house a spirits from its past. Edward A. Tovrea opened his Phoenix packing house west of 48th Street and Van Buren in 1919. The Tovrea Land and Cattle Company had grown to nearly 40,000 head of cattle with 200 acres of cattle pens was known as world’s largest feedlot. His son, Philip E. Tovrea, continued to run most of the empire after Edward died in 1932.
The setting for Stockyards Restaurant began in 1947 as a simple 35 seat coffee counter serving the cattlemen who came to do business with Tovrea at the location’s administration offices. A fire in 1953 destroyed that building. In 1954, a larger two story structure was built on the property which included a large restaurant and bar. Philips wife, Helen G Tovrea was involved with decorating the new establishment. The back bar was modeled after one similar in an old saloon in Superior, Arizona. The “1889 Saloon” has carved mahogany woodwork, AZ terrazzo floors and a shimmering crystal chandelier.
Helen commissioned artist Katherine Patton to draw colorful hand painted murals in the Saloon and Rose Banquet Room during the 1950’s. The painting of the ‘lady in the red dress’ has sparked some speculation of who the spirit in the restaurant might be. Patton is known to draw herself and other acquaintances into her paintings. Some believe the lady in red was actually the likeness of Mrs. Tovrea. Some patrons and owners say the lady in red “comes alive” in the late hours.
Stockyards Restaurant proprietor, Gary Lasko, contacted the paranormal group “Ghosts of Arizona” to come after closing and investigate some of the paranormal activity occurring from time to time. Lights turn on and off, the chandelier shakes, and mysterious voices are heard in the building when the crew is locking up. The staff has heard muffled voices and seen shadows out of the corner of their eyes. Some report seeing a face of a woman in the ladies room mirror, while others state they have seen a lady in a red dress walk from the saloon out into the hallway.
The “Ghosts of Arizona” team set up night vision cameras and recording devices in the saloon, hallway, kitchen, restroom and dining areas and began their investigation. The team director, Lindsay Brown, invited MVD Ghostchaser team members, Debe and Kenton, to sit in on the investigation as observers.
Debe sat down in the booth where famous politicians and western movie actors dined in privacy in a partially secluded area of the main dining room. She asked the spirits of John Wayne, Barry Goldwater, or her special friend and hero, Ben Johnson, to join them if they were in the building. The “Ghosts of Arizona” team entered the dining room to do an EVP session. At the conclusion of the brief gathering Debe spoke aloud and said, “If John, Barry, or Ben is in the building with your friends; please give us some sort of a sign. Go ahead and ‘ding’ one of the wine glasses on this table.”
Of course, nothing happened and the ghost investigating team moved on to their next hot spot in the building. Debe remained seated. She was determined to make contact with one of the former patrons. Suddenly she had a “flash” (picture) in her head of a brown leather saddle with Ben Johnson’s signature inscribed on the side. She immediately opened her eyes and thought out loud, “Ben?” A few seconds later she heard a muffled ding on one of the wine glasses on the table. A shadow quickly glided over a plate on her left. Debe pulled out her cell phone and checked the time. It was exactly 11:31pm.
Debe was curious to see if anything was recorded on the digital device lying on the table, or if the camera with night vision picked up the phenomena. The director of the “Ghosts of Arizona” team later informed me that a slight ding was recorded at the table on his recorder.
Besides an elite group of frequent phantom diners, the number one spirit suspect haunting the remodeled restaurant is believed to be Della Tovrea. Della, the second wife of Edward A. Tovrea, was the fair maiden who reigned over the beautiful Tovrea Castle across the street on Washington. Della spent a great deal of time at the Stockyards Restaurant as well. Employees say they have seen the likeness of Della flit through the dining room and hallways from time to time.
As the paranormal team reviews and evaluates many hours of audio and video footage, I must add that much of the on and off ghostly activity is due to the fact that they are surrounded by paranormal energy conductors! The building is near the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, Salt River, Grand Canal, and the new Valley Metro Light Rail—all there to enhance paranormal activity when the setting is right.
When you are in the mood for a mouthwatering steak—or maybe an evening in one of Phoenix’s most nostalgic restaurants—why not saunter on in and have a seat in one of the original black leather booths under the branding iron light fixtures. You could be sharing the table with a true spirit of the old West!
5009 E Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85034