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Preston Castle
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Preston School of Industry is located in California
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/Founded: 1890
Architect: Schieltez,Henery
Architectural style(s): Romanesque
Governing body: State
Added to NRHP: July 30, 1975[1]
NRHP Reference#: 75000422

The Preston School of Industry, also known as Preston Castle, is 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 (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) 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.

Tours of Preston Castle are available from 10 am - 2 pm on the first and third Saturdays of every month. No reservations are required. The Preston Castle Foundation has taken responsibility for the site and is in the process of restoring it.



The Building is said to be haunted. It is said that a nurse who was mutilated in the 1950's still haunts the castle. Preston Castle was also investigated by Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures.[2]

Former Wards

Former Preston wards include:

  • Eddie Anderson (comedian), 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 autobioraphy, 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 1950's. Keeny learned to fight at Preston.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^

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