Photo: Preston Castle, Ione, CA.
Preston Castle, originally known as the Preston School of Industry, is one of the oldest reform schools in the United States. Prior to its construction, boys in California who were convicted of even the most menial of crimes, would be sent to San Quentin or Folsom State prisons. In the year 1889, Senator Edward Preston introduced a bill to establish an alternative reform institution that would serve to rehabilitate the incarcerated youth. The bill was passed by the California State Senate and construction began on the 230 acre site acquired from the Ione Coal & Iron Company for a mere $30 per acre. The building with its Romanesque Revival architecture was designed by Henry A. Schulze and opened in 1894 when 7 juvenile wards transferred over from San Quentin Prison.
Photos: Inside of Preston Castle.
During its heyday, Preston was host to several now notorious charges including future actor Rory Calhoun, world welter-weight boxing champion Don Jordan, country singer Merle Haggard, tennis star Pancho Gonzales and Joseph Paul Cretzer who went on to lead the bloody “Battle of Alcatraz” escape attempt. During its history, several murders occurred on its grounds including the murder of caretaker Anna Corbin who was found wrapped in a carpet and hidden in a small space behind the kitchen.
The Preston School of Industry closed its doors in 1960 and moved to new facilities on adjacent acreage, leaving the Castle to deteriorate over the next 40 years from vandalism and neglect. In 2001, the Preston Castle Foundation was formed and took out a 50-year lease of the castle for $1 a year. Since then, the Foundation has commenced a very challenging restoration and the Castle has been designated a California State Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.