Made of leftover bottles, found motorcycles, rocks, concrete and countless other pieces of junk, Glendora’s Rubel Castle is one of Southern California’s oddest buildings.
Rubel Castle (also known as Rubelia) was established in Glendora, California, by Michael Clarke Rubel (April 16, 1940 – October 15, 2007). It has been called “a San Gabriel Valley version of Watts Towers.”
It was constructed partly out of concrete but also out of scrap steel, rocks, bedsprings, coat hangers, bottles, and other pieces of junk that Rubel found.
My red hat girls were a blast to tour with.
The security system is very hi-tech.
Rubel’s father, Henry “Heinz” Scott Rubel, had been an Episcopalian minister and gag writer for radio comedians.
Michael’s tombstone in the cemetery. No real bodies are buried here. The fake cemetery was an interesting addition because with every new headstone added it gave Michael the excuse to throw a lively bash for his friends under the guise of a wake.
When Rubel was a boy, he used to swim in the two-million-gallon reservoir on the sprawling citrus ranch owned by Al Bourne, heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune. Bourne worried that kids would be hurt in his reservoir, so he chased the boy away dozens of times, and Rubel would tell the rich man, “Someday I’m going to buy this from you.”
Rubel purchased the 2½ acre citrus orchard on which the structure resides in 1959. He and his friends completed construction in 1986. Rubelia is considered the first major recycling project in the United States. The house combined Michael’s longing for peace and quiet with another passion of his: amateur construction. Even as a child, Rubel would make castles and forts in the junk yard near his home.
A vintage Charles De Gaulle’s bullet proof automobile sits in one of the garages.
Glendora Swingers Club
The land the castle sits on was originally an orange packing farm that a then 18-year-old Michael Rubel had purchased. Michael and his family soon moved in, converting packing warehouses into sprawling people houses, where Dorothy Rubel, his socialite, actress mother, played hostess constantly, sometimes to hundreds of people.
The Red Caboose
There are 5 residences on the property that occasionally come up for rent. Guests often stay in the Santa Fe caboose which had to be craned over the walls in order to make it into the castle walls.
Drawbridge closed…we’re in!
Volunteers hand-wind the clock daily, and it chimes on the half-hour.
This small bottle house is what Michael originally lived in while creating the castle, which includes a total of 60 rooms.
Every castle needs a cannon.
The castle includes apartments, artist studios, printing presses, pottery studios.
A janky fountain in between one of the residences on the property.
Much of the foundation is the underground walls of the old reservoir. The castle’s walls, hand-built of San Gabriel River rock, are studded with every imaginable castoff: a toaster, the rear end of a motorcycle, a telephone, a variety of small sculptures.
Watching a brief 10 minute ‘California’s Gold’ episode that Huell shot in 1990. I remember watching the exact same episode and always wanting to check the place out.
Bottle Hall Escape Passage
Inside Michael’s larger home within the grounds.
Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood came at least once to one of the castle’s parties, a claim that’s easy to believe when you see this vast space, jammed with Victorian furniture, an old truck, pianos, a model train set, a gorgeous canoe, wireless sets and about 10,000 more things, including an organ in perfect tune. The Tin Palace, as the home was known back then, entertained guests like Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, even Dwight Eisenhower.
Rubel grew ill in 2005 and donated his property to the Glendora Historical Society; he passed away in 2007. The society manages the five apartments in the various buildings; the tenants are all artists who don’t mind the funky living conditions (let’s just say you need a certain tolerance for spiders and the crowing of the resident roosters) and who draw inspiration from the setting. They help maintain the place, tend the chickens and organic garden, and meet on Sundays in the common kitchen for brunch. Rubel Castle Tours are by Reservation Only. To make tour reservations by phone, please call the Glendora Historical Society at: (626) 963-0419.