Originally published February 12, 2013 at The Los Angeles Beat
Everyone loves a good fairy tale. Here in Los Angeles that is no exception. Rather, one thing that feeds this city’s mystique is that this is a place where the impossible is possible, a place where straw is spun from gold and where dreams can really come true for believers. The magical story of Rubel Castle is one such legend and is a perfect Hollywood tale.
Once upon a time, the year being 1940 exactly, a boy named Michael Rubel was born in a land of bright blue skies and endless orange groves of a foothill town called Glendora. Michael’s Mom was an ex-Greenwich Village Follies dancer and though the family was of average means, he grew up surrounded by her elaborate parties and extremely famous Hollywood party guests such as Bob Hope, Alfred Hitchcock and even Dwight Eisenhower. Michael was a ne’er do well, failing in school and with no real interest in ever having a career or an occupation. It looked like the future might be dim for him. From an early age the only thing that really drove him was constructing elaborate forts, some several stories high.
But, fellow Angelenos, we all know this story. It is the recipe of success and its ingredients are dreams. Michael was not at a total loss, his soul salvation was that he had charisma. Not merely a little bit of charm can move mountains, but Michael’s was powerful enough that he had a rich benefactor give him 2 1/2 acres of land. He also had hundreds of friends who were willing to donate their time and their resources to helping him build the ultimate fort: a castle.
The building of Rubel Castle started in 1968 and continued for 18 years. It was really a town-wide project, with friends and volunteers lured by a party-like atmosphere of food and drink, but also by their love for Michael and helping him fulfill his crazy dreams. Michael passed away in 2007 and is described as having lived a happy life. His legacy, an elaborate castle made of stones gathered locally and objects found at the Glendora dump had towers , a drawbridge, a functioning blacksmith studio and a fake cemetery in which there are dozens of tombstones, but no actual graves. 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. Describing Rubel’s creation it is nearly impossible to interweave enough magic into the story to fully elaborate how special and wondrous and truly dreamlike this place turned out to be. My advice is to visit and take part in the extremely interesting 2-hour docent led tour.
Rubel Castle is now run by the Glendora Historical Society which comprises many members who had known Michael directly and share the same love and pride for the castle that Michael had himself. Tours can be arranged through the Society. There is a small tour donation which goes towards upkeep of the castle.
Rubel Castle: 844 N. Live Oak, Glendora, CA 91741; (626) 963-0419.