The Preston School of Industry’s Gothic style administration building lords over the squat, rolling hills of Amador County and dominates the small town of Ione, California. A short trip out of Sacramento, south down highway 99 and east on highway 104, will land the traveler in eye’s reach of the spectacular red brick building, a vigilante whose authority is both ominous and unassuming.
Its now dilapidated structure beckons the supernatural investigator and historian alike to discover its past under the jurisdiction of the California Youth Authority and the mysteries of its occupants once the antiquated building was replaced by an updated neighboring facility. Though the building, only part of the expansive grounds of the original school, creates a tangible connection with the past, a more exhaustive and intimate way to experience Preston School is through its archive.
If you live in California or might one day visit, I would highly recommend visiting Preston Castle. Here is the website where you can sign up for a tour: http://www.prestoncastle.com/
Tours are only held on Saturdays, so you would need to plan ahead a bit. Ticket prices range from 10 – 20 dollars depending on age and if you want a guided tour. I would recommend the guided tour just because of the site’s rich history. The tour guides are all volunteers, but they are extremely knowledge about the architecture as well as historical significance of Preston Castle.
My interest in the school, a correctional facility for youth operating between 1890 to 1960, began about 7 years ago when I happened to watch an episode of Ghost Adventures (a show most notable for demonstrating how ridiculous people can look when their afraid.) I was struck by the architecture and history of the place. So, with a few friends, I went to check it out. By the end of the tour, I was fortunate enough to discover that the Preston Castle Archives had been collected into a beautiful book composed by John Lafferty, a man dedicated to the preservation of the The Castle’s history and an inspired librarian.
My senior year of college, I was again blessed with the opportunity of writing a paper about the archive (a brief excerpt of which appears here) and was able to interview John Lafferty. As a person who loves books, it’s awesome to communicate with an author equipped with the academic stamina John Lafferty possesses. Below is a picture of the front cover of his book and a shot of the signature I secured from the author on my copy’s flyleaf. Not many of these books were printed, but the information they contain illuminate forgotten episodes in California’s history.
I treasure this particular book because of the story behind how I stumbled upon Preston Castle, a somewhat hidden (and controversial) gem stuck into the rock of California history. The Castle’s presence and history are enough to romance just about anyone. I also love books attached to particular places, especially one as haunting as this.
Here are also a few of the photos I’ve taken of the site. Thank you for reading!!