July 11, 2012

Photo Essay: Rubel's Castle, Glendora

Perhaps every man's home is his castle - figuratively. But at Rubelia in Glendora, CA, Michael Rubel turned a former water reservoir in an orange grove into a literal castle, a task which took him 25 years to complete thanks to  labor and materials donated by his friends, rocks collected from the Azusa foothills, and tracks and ties scavenged from a local defunct gold-mining railroad.

Michael - who lived in his self-built fortess until his death in 2007 - was a self-proclaimed kid who never grew up, and never grew out of his childhood passion for building forts.

The result is a literal castle, with two towers (including one tower that houses a rare and pricey clock)...

...a variety of bells, a whistle that goes off at noon, fake cannons, and a death trap gate front door.

The property itself encompasses two acres which are filled with a water tower, a water tank used for a swimming pool (once filled with koi fish), a windmill... old Santa Fe Railway caboose, various old rusty equipment, motors, and vehicles...

...some old gas station pumps...

...a cemetery of cast-off headstones (but no accompanying graves), and lots of chickens.

The exterior of the castle itself is built with and decorated with a number of found objects, including feathers and cannonballs...


...and a number of tin signs.

Our tour guide, Richard, was friends with Michael, and showed us the various areas of the entire complex, including where people (mostly artists) actually still live now, and where they all used to party.

Many of the bottles that are built into the walls were donated, but plenty of them were emptied at those parties (at which only beer and wine were allowed, no hard liquor).

There are innumerable nooks and crannies around the labyrinthine castle and farm...

...and there are really too many sights to describe. You really have to see it for yourself.

Like Nitt Witt Ridge or Bottle Village, plenty of Rubel's building materials were junk - and he claims that much of it (including some bedsprings) is actually embedded inside the six-foot-thick stone and concrete walls -

...but Rubel's Castle - unlike, say, Watt's Towers or the Tile House - was eventually finished, and is a real structure that has withstood a number of earthquakes without a crack.

Now, after Michael's death, it stands as a museum of sorts - of the ephemera of the time, and of the antiques of the time that interested Michael (including lots of machinery in a shed, and some old printing presses and typewriters).

It doesn't look like there are any more parties in the machine shop...

...but thanks to the Glendora Historical Society, the landmark site has been preserved and is open twice a month for tours (and more often for local curious third graders).

Related Reading:
Photo Essay: Hearst Castle
The Hudson River's Only Castle on an Island
Photo Essay: Bottle Village
Photo Essay: Nitt Witt Ridge, One Man's Castle

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  1. Some very nice pictures here. I love the extreme close-ups. Thank you for not mangling the story, and for being a castle-enthusiast.