Without a doubt, the Preston Castle is one of the top five most beautiful places we’ve seen during our year of walking through history. It’s also considered one of the most haunted places in California.
It opened in 1894 as the Preston School of Industry, which was designed as a place to send juvenile criminals for rehabilitation, instead of throwing them in to hardcore prisons with a bunch of adult offenders.
The building of this stunning rural Romanesque Revival structure began in 1890, and it was made with local sandstone, granite from nearby Folsom and bricks from both the Folsom and San Quentin prisons.
The first seven wards arrived from San Quentin State Prison in 1894, and it remained in operation until 1960.
During that time, discipline for wards was swift and extreme and included starvation, isolation and public paddlings and lashings.
In 1918, burglar Samuel Goins arrived at Preston, and attempted to escape three times. On the third occasion, Goins was shot in the back and killed at age 20, two months before his scheduled release. In fact, a sniper tower still remains on the property.
Goins was buried in a cemetery on the property, along with 16 other wards who died inside the school, most from disease like yellow fever and tuberculosis.
In 1950, the head housekeeper, Anna Corbin, was brutally beaten to death in the facility’s basement. Her killer was never found. The school closed its doors ten years later, and the building remained deserted. However, since that time, visitors have reported all kinds of strange occurrences including slamming doors, disembodied voices, falling objects and ghostly touches.
Preston Castle has been features on all manner of paranormal TV shows including Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and more.
The castle slowly began falling apart due to old age, weather and lack of maintenance. Preston Castle Foundation is trying to restore the building, with the first renovation taking place January of 2007. The damaged roof was fixed, which helped stop the decay of interior floors.
In 2010, the missing fourth floor was replaced, helping with structural stabilization. Replacement of missing windows is a work in progress.
It is a California State Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.