Spotlight Columns

Book offers a peek inside Preston Castle

By From page B6 | July 04, 2017

“Capturing the Castle”

Book: “Capturing the Castle”

Author: Angelica R. Jackson

Publisher: Crow and Pitcher Press, published May 2017, 62 pages, softcover

Have you ever wondered what is inside the mysterious red brick castle on the hill in Ione? While there are tours available for the public, you can also take a peek with Angelica R. Jackson’s new book of photography featuring Preston Castle, “Capturing the Castle.”

Over a 10-year period, an intrigued Jackson took photographs of the castle which was built as a youth correctional facility. Formerly known as the Preston School of Industry, the castle sports a clock tower, turrets and bricks made of Ione sandstone by the inmates of San Quentin and Folsom prisons.

In the correctional facility, which was open from 1894 to 1960, the boys being rehabilitated there were known as wards. They included such celebrities as actors Rory Calhoun and Lee J. Cobb, tennis star Pancho Gonzales and performers Merle Haggard and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.

In “Capturing the Castle” Jackson’s color and black and white photographs show both Preston’s unique architecture and the types of living arrangements used for staff and wards. Ornately carved corbels and archways vie with the Spartan utility of the basement baths; ivy crawls up walls studded with hundreds of windows.

“There was a staff dining area, served by the kitchen below it in the basement,“ said Jackson. “Food was transported between the two via dumbwaiter or the narrow stairway. Down in the basement, you can still see a slot where the wards served their fellows — it’s only a slot so they could not see who they were giving a tray to.”

This was to prevent the wards from giving extra food to their friends or something not so nice to the boys they didn’t like.

Jackson, a Cameron Park resident since 1999, is also the author of “Crow’s Rest,” the first book in the Faerie Crossed series, a darkly humorous urban fantasy series for young adults. The books are set in a fictional Sierra foothills town which is an amalgam of Jackson’s favorite parts of Placerville, Ione, Sutter Creek and Amador City and include a mysterious castle much like Preston Castle.

On Jackson’s early visits to the castle, she said there were often signs of foxes, owls, bats and other creatures that made the castle their home and the third floor was in poor shape due to weathering from the decrepit roof. Graffiti and decay from decades of neglect were visible.

Now, due to the restoration efforts of the Preston Castle Foundation, which owns the castle, the critters are out, roofs have been repaired and the graffiti is gone. The building is a state historic landmark and a great place to attend a murder mystery or the Preston Castle Haunt.

For further information about Angelica R. Jackson, her books and her photography, visit the website To find out about the history and public tours of Preston Castle visit the website at

“Capturing the Castle” is available at Face in a Book, 4359 Town Center Blvd. in El Dorado Hills, and other independent bookstores as well as online at and Barnes&

For more information go to

Wendy Schultz


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