Preston Castle – Ione, California - Atlas Obscura

Preston Castle

Ione, California

One of the oldest reform schools in the United States, home to wayward boys such as Merle Haggard, now abandoned. 


Construction for this 46,000 square-foot, 120-room Romanesque “castle” was started in 1890. The building’s bricks were made by nearby Folsom and San Quentin inmates and shipped via rail to Ione, in California’s Sierra Foothills, where the castle was built.

The state legislature had ordered construction of the building to serve as a juvenile rehabilitation correctional facility. By 1894 the castle was complete and the Preston School of Industry was opened. At the military-styled school wards spent half their days in school and the other half learning a trade that could support them after their release. The facility served as home to the school until 1960 when it was moved to newer nearby buildings.

For the next forty years the castle remained abandoned, until 2001 when a fifty-year lease was given to The Preston Castle Foundation. The foundation has since been working to preserve and restore the castle. The building has been named as a California Historical Landmark (#867) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NPS-75000422).

It has long been said that the castle is haunted and it has been investigated by a variety of ghost hunters. Several deaths occurred at the castle throughout the years, but it is believed to be haunted by Anna Corbin, a housekeeper who was found beaten to death in 1950. For those hoping to experience the paranormal, overnight ghost tours are offered for $100. Basic tours are also offered almost every Saturday, plus some Tuesdays, during the months of April through December.

Future beat-hero Neal Cassidy supposedly “discovered literature” while as a ward at the school. Other famous wards include country musician Merle Haggard (who has a “PSoI” tattoo), actor Lee J. Cobb, actor Rory Calhoun, and author Eddie Bunker.

Know Before You Go

From CA-99 take CA-104 towards Jackson. Turn left onto Sutter Ln, and take the first left onto Palm Drive. From CA-16, turn onto CA-124 South. In Ione turn right at Preston, right at Sutter, and left onto Palm Drive.

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February 25, 2011

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