Preston School of Industry

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For the rock band, see Preston School of Industry (band).
Preston Castle
Preston Castle 1.jpg
Preston School of Industry is located in California
Preston School of Industry
Nearest city Ione, California
Coordinates 38°21′40″N 120°56′9″W / 38.36111°N 120.93583°W / 38.36111; -120.93583Coordinates: 38°21′40″N 120°56′9″W / 38.36111°N 120.93583°W / 38.36111; -120.93583
Built 1890
Architect Schulze, Henry A.
Architectural style Romanesque
NRHP Reference # 75000422
CHISL # 867[1]
Added to NRHP July 30, 1975[2]

The Preston School of Industry, also known as Preston Castle, was formerly one of the oldest and best-known reform schools in the United States. It is located in Ione, California, in Amador County.

The institution was opened in June 1894 when seven wards (minors under the guardianship of the state, but not necessarily juvenile offenders), were transferred there from San Quentin State Prison. The original building, known colloquially as "Preston Castle" (or simply "The Castle"), is the most significant example of Romanesque Revival architecture in the Mother Lode. It was vacated in 1960, shortly after new buildings had been constructed to replace it. The abandoned building has since been named a California Historical Landmark (#867)[1] and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NPS-75000422).

The facility's name has often been used in movies and also television programs, such as Dragnet. In 1999, the institution's official name was changed to the "Preston Youth Correctional Facility", but most people in the state — especially those who reside in the immediate area — continue to refer to it by its original name.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced on October 21, 2010, that the Preston Youth Correctional Facility will be closing.[3] On June 2, 2011, Preston held its official closing ceremony. Former staff, correctional officers, correctional counselors, and the public were invited to celebrate Preston's last day open as a correctional facility.[citation needed]

The building is open to tours for the public and it is maintained by the Preston Castle Foundation.


It is claimed that the building is haunted, both by former wards as well as the spirit of a housekeeper, Anna Corbin, who was bludgeoned to death there in the 1950s.[4][5]

The property was featured in an episode of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures with Zak Bagans, who believed he became possessed by Anna's spirit. It has also been featured by The Atlantic Paranormal Society team of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson on SyFy's paranormal show Ghost Hunters, Conversations of a Serial Killer Richard Trenton Chase Episode by Two-Four Productions run out of the UK, and Cartoon Network's The Othersiders. Also My Ghost Story has done an episode about the paranormal in the building.

Former Wards[edit]

Preston Castle (Ione).jpg

Former Preston wards include:

  • Eddie Anderson, best known for his role as "Rochester" in Jack Benny's radio and television programs.
  • Ernest Booth, discovered by H. L. Mencken, who published his stories in The American Mercury; he wrote a successful autobiography, Stealing Through Life; a novel, With Sirens Screaming; and a number of scenarios and screenplays, including Ladies of the Mob (1928) and Ladies of the Big House (1931).
  • Rory Calhoun, who was known as Francis McCown when he was a Preston ward in the late 1930s.
  • Don Jordan, joined a boxing program at Preston and went on to become world welterweight champion by defeating Virgil Akins.
  • Heavyweight boxer Eddie Machen graduated from Preston's boxing program and went on to fight such boxers as Ingemar Johansson, Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, and Joe Frazier.
  • Merle Haggard marked his time at Preston with a "PSoI" tattoo; his school file noted that he "likes to sing and play the guitar."
  • Tennis great Pancho Gonzales honed his skills on the Preston School's tennis court shortly before turning professional and has been rated by some experts as the greatest player of all time.
  • Neal Cassady discovered literature in the Preston School library and later was at the very center of the Beat Movement. He was the "N.C." of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" and the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Cassady drove Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters on the bus named "Further" and later drove bus for the Grateful Dead.
  • Bill Sands wrote a best-selling autobiography, My Shadow Ran Fast, and founded the Seventh Step prisoner rehabilitation program.
  • Phil Thatcher became active in prison ministry, penned an autobiography, Under Arrest, and was granted a full pardon by Governor Earl Warren.
  • Tony Cornero made his fortune as a rumrunner during Prohibition and later built the Stardust Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
  • Caryl Chessman became a celebrity author while on Death Row in the 1950s.
  • Ray D. Johnson escaped from Preston twice and later became the first maximum security prisoner to escape from Folsom State Prison. He wrote an autobiography, Too Dangerous to be at Large.
  • Joseph Paul Cretzer led the bloodiest and most notorious attempted escape from Alcatraz Island. The "Battle of Alcatraz" resulted in the deaths of two guards and three inmates, including Cretzer.
  • Eddie Bunker became a successful author and actor, writing books like "Animal Factory" and "No Beast So Fierce," as well as appearing in films like "Reservoir Dogs," "The Running Man," and "Tango & Cash."
  • Keeny Teran former bantamweight contender from the 1950s. Keeny learned to fight at Preston.
  • Arthur Duane Hale, Sr Went on to become owner of U S Mag and American Racing and still speaks of the time spent there in his youth.


  1. ^ a b "Preston Castle". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  2. ^ Staff (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ Hedger, Matthew (October 21, 2010). "Preston Youth Correctional Facility to close". Ledger Dispatch (Amador: Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  4. ^ "The Haunted Castle In California". Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  5. ^ "Who Was Anna Corbin?". Retrieved 2015-11-2.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

External links[edit]