Glendora Landmark: Rubel Castle

Take a tour of Michael Rubel's epic dream project, turrets, stones, chickens, and all.

Finding a castle in California is actually easier than it sounds, despite the fact that our state is given less to drawbridges and turrets and more to ranch-style homes and Spanish stucco structures.

You can admire art in a castle, at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. You can make a wish alongside a castle, at Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle (and the adjacent Snow White's Wishing Well, of course).

And sleeping over in a fairy tale-style building? Well, Riverside's Mission Inn Hotel & Spa doesn't have "castle" in its name, but few would argue that its tower-laden look draws from the ye olde castles of olde.

There are even, on occasion, live-in castles around the Golden State. True, an Oak Glen castle, complete with grassy moat, recently went into escrow, but there is Rubel Castle of Glendora to keep in mind, a handbuilt, made-with-love landmark that contains a few for-rent residences.

They're currently occupied by artists a recent tour revealed, but strolling the grounds of Michael Rubel's dream project, a wonderous home that took decades to come together, is possible. Decades and many local volunteers, as well as a host of offbeat and photo-worthy materials, both donated and gathered.

The Glendora Historical Society leads tours of Rubel Castle on select days each month, providing guests with a deeper experience of one of Southern California's most distinctive domiciles.

It's a property with its roots in the long-ago citrus packing industry of the San Gabriel Valley, but Rubel Castle came into being when Michael Rubel and his mom took up residence in the on-site packing house in the 1960s.


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Mr. Rubel had a bigger vision beyond the historic house: a castle. He soon began pouring concrete, placing river rocks in walls, collecting interesting odds 'n ends, and including anyone in the area who wanted to lend a hand to this big-of-vision project, an honest-to-Glendora castle.

A castle with tons of charming quirks, from silverware to bottles to typewriters and bicycle parts mortared into the walls to wandering chickens to a beautiful clock tower. It even starred in a T-Mobile commercial as none other than Dr. Frankenstein's castle.

"Idiosyncratic" might be one word to describe the large and rambling space, but "full of heart" is more apt. It clearly came together with passion, humor, seat-of-the-pants-y inspiration, and the joy of a bunch of people pitching in, simply to see something monumental and whimsical come together over many years.

You'll need to reserve a spot on a tour, which costs ten dollars for an adult. Sturdy shoes are a fine idea, too, as you'll stroll the surrounding grounds, as well as some stairs and passages.

Mr. Rubel passed away nearly a decade ago, but he had given the Glendora Historical Society his life's work, the castle that stands dramatically near the mountains. 

It's a treasure, one that is on the National Register of Historic Places, so generations of Californians can see what a built-by-hand castle looks like. As for those apartments within its high walls? They're desired, of course, but once people fall in love with Rubel Castle, it can become a longtime relationship.

We Californians do adore our castles, though, whether for living in, visiting, spending a night, or the making of wishes. Glendora's Rubel Castle provides a visit opportunity for most people, though one senses that many wishes, and a little magic, went into its multi-decade construction.

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