Date posted: 09/27/2013
See the Historic Preston Castle!
In 1890, the Ione Coal & Iron Company sold the land on which Preston Castle is built to the Preston School of Industry, so that a progressive juvenile detainment center could be built. Ahead of its time, this center was looking to rehabilitate its offenders rather than simply confine them to imprisonment – an unusual concept in the nineteenth century. Work commenced immediately: bricks were created in Folsom and San Quentin using sandstone mined not far from Ione and delivered by railway. Although the plans were incredibly ambitious, putting seventy seven rooms across five floors and built in the Romanesque Revival style, the first wards were able to be accepted in 1894 at its official opening on July 1st. Just one year later, electricity was installed by using water wheels to power dynamos generating enough electricity for both arc lights and incandescent lighting.
The building remained open until it was superseded in 1960, when new facilities to replace the old building were completed. For forty years after then, the building was allowed to fall into disrepair, remaining vacant and deteriorating – until 2001, when The Preston Castle Foundation were awarded a 50 year lease. Since then, the building has been opened for public tours and work has commenced to restore the architecture of the unique Castle to its former glory. Registered as a California State Historical Landmark and being on the National Register of Historic Places are helping to drive fundraising for the repairs.
The castle is vast: covering approximately 46,000 square feet including its basement and an annex which also has a basement of its own. Across its four floors in the main building, there would have been reception rooms and the Director’s office, numerous additional office spaces complete with a vault, dining rooms, library, school rooms, bathrooms, coat rooms, dormitories, spaces for linen storage and personal lockers, and on the mezzanine, two bathrooms housing three bathtubs. The third and fourth floors were never finished, but would offer additional bedrooms. In the basement, there was a play room, as well as the more mundane facilities including bathing areas, kitchens, pantries, the furnace and the fuel stores.
While it was uninhabited, much of this building was left to the ravages of nature – but the hard work of The Preston Castle Foundation to earn grants to repair the roof, replace floors which have been damaged, and to restore electricity as well as several other repair projects in the building are bringing the Castle back to its former glory. Public tours are available on various days to see first-hand the quality of historical craftsmanship and to experience the atmosphere of this unique building. If you will be staying at one of the hotels close to Ione CA in Amador County , spend a day visiting Preston Castle!