Alice Montelius has permission to be a little princess. After all, the toddler lives in a pink castle.
Her house is one of the most famous in East Sacramento, a fantasy palace on the edge of the Fabulous Forties. With domes, turrets and twisted columns, the house looks like it was built by Aladdin, not one of Sacramento’s most influential pioneers.
But merchant-turned-agricultural reformer David Lubin constructed this century-old mansion on 39th Street. And this weekend, the home will help benefit the school named in Lubin’s honor.
With its picturesque courtyard and stately trees, the Lubin house will be a featured stop on the 18th annual East Sacramento Garden Tour. Held each spring during Mother’s Day weekend, the popular tour raises funds for programs at nearby David Lubin Elementary School and has become a tradition for local families. About 2,000 patrons are expected to tour seven gardens and a children’s chalk art gallery.
“We have such a connection with the David Lubin house,” said Kate Washington, a Lubin School parent and one of the tour’s volunteers. “Not only is our school named for him, but he was a real philanthropist. It’s a connection David Lubin himself would really appreciate; this tour will benefit kids at his (namesake) school.”
Born in Poland in 1849, Lubin immigrated to America as a child with his mother. He found his way to Sacramento, where he opened a dry goods store and launched a mail-order business with his half brother, Harris Weinstock. That business evolved into Weinstock’s, which once had a dozen department stores in the Central Valley, Nevada and Utah.
Lubin also bought a farm and became a world leader in agricultural policy-making. He co-founded the International Institute of Agriculture, the forerunner of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
As for his Sacramento house, it was built for entertaining.
“This is the only home on the tour where people get a glimpse inside,” Washington said. “There’s a lot of curiosity about this house.”
Nicknamed the “pink castle” by neighbors, the three-bedroom, five-bath home makes an immediate impression on visitors. A giant copper dome sits above the main entrance. Stained-glass windows glow in soft shades of pink.
With a massive marble fireplace, the living room looks more like a ballroom with its own built-in elevated bandstand and a wooden slide.
“We’re not sure what the slide was for,” said Ryan Montelius, who lives in the home with his wife, Devon, and two young daughters, Lillian, 7, and Alice, almost 2. “But our girls like it.”
“I’ve always thought this must have been a woman’s house, because there’s so much pink,” Devon Montelius said. “Actually, David’s son Simon lived here (more than his father). It was known when it was completed (in 1913) as ‘Simon Lubin’s dream house.’”
Ryan and Devon Montelius own Intero Real Estate Services, and that’s how this home became their temporary castle. It’s owned by Dr. Paul Muizelaar, who did major renovations to the neo-Moorish mansion and added several flourishes including a second dome.
Muizelaar, a neurosurgeon, relocated his work to the East Coast and put the house up for sale last year. When there were no takers, Ryan Montelius made him another offer.
“Why not have professional real estate agents take care of it?” Ryan recalled. “The doctor was just going to leave it vacant for three years. It was lucky timing for us. We ended up in a real cool spot.”
In anticipation of the tour, Devon Montelius has been busy reviving the garden, planted with Japanese maples, roses and citrus. A large pecan tree arches over the backyard and shades the tiled pool.
“I love the pool,” Ryan Montelius said. “We’re all fishes. In the summer, that’s where we spend our time.”
Framed by tiled balconies, the courtyard feels like a Mediterranean resort. Magenta bougainvillea protected from frost climbs walls in the sheltered garden. Royal palms tower over the patio. A dome covered with real gold leaf gleams in the Sacramento sun as the scent of jasmine fills the air.
“It’s just so serene,” said Devon Montelius. “It’s peaceful.”
Little Alice loves helping her mother water plants and playing with the family’s Jack Russell terriers, Scrappy Doo and Delilah.
Lillian loves the garden, too, especially a large red Japanese maple in the front yard, said her mom. “She calls it her fairy tree.”
In this garden, anything seems possible.
“Not everybody gets a chance to live in a castle,” Devon Montelius said.
18th annual East Sacramento Garden Tour
Where: Start at David Lubin Elementary School, 3535 M St., Sacramento
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8
Admission: $25; children age 12 and under admitted free
Also: Tea garden luncheon ($15) available at Sutter Lawn Tennis Club.