Tin Palace and Short History

1963 inside the Tin PalaceLavon Rubel, Frank Landon, Louise Lawton, Dorothy Rubel, Grandfather Harry Deuel, Beth Gardenhire, Michael Rubel (smoking pipe under Jesus), Harry Deuel (Dorothy's brother), Florence Landon, Austin Deuel, Doris Deuel, Maria Stade (hidden, but you can see her hair behind) Dorchen Forman.

In the foothills of Glendora, California stands the last intact citrus packing house from the early 20th century...and a castle. It exists to this day because in 1959, during the decline of the citrus era, Michael Rubel bargained for the defunct Albourne Rancho property and took up residence in the huge packing house. Rubel Pharms has bustled with the happy industry of artists, gardeners, architects and stackers of stone ever since.

In the 1960s creosote and class collided when Michael's mother, one-time Greenwich Village Follies dancer and Broadway actress Dorothy Deuel Rubel, moved into the packing house with him. At 200 feet long it was the perfect venue for her favorite hobby: parties. Well-dressed guests arrived weekly by the hundreds, strolling past old tractors, horses, poultry, buggies, and the gritty accoutrements of the bucolic rancho period, to arrive inside a tin fruit packing house transformed into a giant dance hall. Inside, surrounded by art and antique furniture remaining from Rubel ancestors, the guests mingled in the smudge oil and orange blossom atmosphere and danced to a small orchestra.

Sally Rand, the silent screen actress and fan dancer, famous since the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, never missed Dorothy Rubel's parties, which were so extravagant that the packing house became known as "The Tin Palace." Other people of note who came to the Tin Palace in those days include Dwight Eisenhower, the Duncan Sisters, Beatrice Kay, Harry Townes, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Kid Chissell, Angie Dickinson, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Though Michael slept in one of the giant citrus refrigerators, the walls of thick cork were not sufficient sound insulation to allow him peace from his mother's parties. In 1968 Michael fired up his cement mixer and, with a pile of discarded champagne bottles, began building himself a small get-away house in the center of his empty old 16-million gallon concrete reservoir. The high walls of the reservoir provided privacy and a noise barrier while he built his bottle house. Thus began a building spree that lasted twenty years, culminating in what is now called the Rubel Castle.

With the encouragement of old timers like Odo Stade, and with the help of many friends and relations, the castle grew to be thousands of square feet with towers five stories high, made from locally gathered river rock, salvaged wood, metal, junk and, yes, more bottles. A restored 1896 Seth Thomas clock works runs the brass bells and clock that crown one of the high towers. Over the decades, Rubel Castle has instilled a work ethic in hundreds of young people and stands as a celebration of the independent spirit. Huell Howser interviewed Michael Rubel for "Videolog" in 1990, and the story is also celebrated in the book "One Man's Dream; The Spirit of Rubel Castle." The book has been partly translated into Chinese.

Like a true castle, it has hosted royalty including Prince Phillip, Henry Kissinger, the Archbishop of Canterbury-Robert Runcie, and Governor George Deukmejian.
In March, 2005, Michael gave Rubel Castle to the Glendora Historical Society. Limited tours can be scheduled, and the property is available for use as a film location.

Los Angeles Times Reports on a Tin Palace Soiree

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