“Lurid” aptly summarizes this house, both architecturally and historically. A gaudy and extravagant standout in Providence’s showiest thoroughfare, it was home to a highly successful dry goods merchant and his family. Barnaby (1830-1889) commissioned Stone & Carpenter for the design of this house, and its highly animated massing and wall surface are uncharacteristic of their work and seen elsewhere only in the commercial building that Barnaby also commissioned from them. The Barnaby family is also as prominent in death as in life, with the family plot dominated by a tall shaft that creates the terminus of the entrance axis in Swan Point Cemetery. Mrs. Barnaby’s demise occurred at the hands of her physician, who sent her a bottle of poisoned whiskey, which she consumed on vacation in Colorado. The climax to that story, the sensational trial and the guilty doctor’s jailhouse suicide, further reinforce this house’s gruesome presence. This is a house of which legends are made, and many have been.
— 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture
Barnaby’s Castle is an elaborate 2½-story High Victorian mansion with a patterned-slate mansard roof, turrets, dormers and iron cresting. In 1885, the original 1875 structure was enlarged by the addition of a four-story, clapboard and red slate, 12-sided, conical roof tower with open loggia, and an elaborate conservatory with arched windows of stained glass and a circular-plan, open porch.
Jerothmul Barnaby was a self-made magnate in the ready-to-wear clothing industry; he also owned a large store at 180-204 Westminster Avenue. In 1875, Barnady commissioned the architectural firm of Stone, Carpenter and Willson to build the home on a prominent corner on Broadway, the city’s so called Victorian boulevard. The eccentric composition and ornamentation of the house break from the restrained traditions of the firm and are thereby attributed to the wild tastes of its owner.
The house has garnered just as much fame for the notorious lives of its inhabitants as for its architectural idiosyncrasies. In April 1891, Barnaby’s wife Josephine was killed after drinking from a poisoned bottle of whiskey she had received in the mail while vacationing in Colorado. Her physician, Dr. T. Thatcher Graces was convicted of her murder following a widely publicized trial. Graves committed suicide in prison in 1893 before his scheduled execution.
At the time it was first included on the Most Endangered Properties List in 2000, the property had fallen into complete disrepair. For years the house had been enclosed by a tall razor wire fence and though scaffolding stood around the structure, no work had been completed. Water damage continued to gnaw at its structural integrity. Visually and psychologically, the formerly glorious architectural masterpiece was negatively impacting historic Broadway.
As of February, 2019, the owner has made major advances to restoring the house, including repairing the roof and flashing, restoring stained glass windows and beginning to paint the exterior. The interior is occupied by apartment renters and the ground floor is used for occasional events. Remaining major work to be done includes shoring up the structure of the tower and completing the exterior paint job.