A peek inside Barnaby Castle

One of the crown architectural jewels of Providence's West Side is Barnaby Castle, at 299 Broadway. You can't miss it; it's the huge beige Victorian with the mansard roof, on the corner of Sutton Street.

Image via Providence Preservation Society
Maybe you've also noticed that there's been some work going on there for the last year or so. No? Don't be embarrassed. A lot of it is happening on the inside.

But let's look at the outside for a minute. Even to my amateur eye, that apartment beige is probably not the color the Castle was painted originally. A couple of years ago, as I stood outside admiring the house, someone from the neighborhood stopped to chat. Among other things, he informed me that many years ago, the house had been in terrible condition, with peeling paint. The neighborhood had complained.  The owner at the time was made to repaint. "And this beige was a big F-U to the neighborhood," he said. Apocryphal information at best, but an interesting story.

The original part of the house was built in 1875, for Jerothmul Barnaby and his wife Josephine.

Jerothmul was a self-made man, who built a fortune in the ready-to-wear clothing business. He was quite a character, and scorned by the old guard as the "nouveau riche." So, instead of hobnobbing with the local Society, he lived life out loud and over-the-top. In fact, he was kind of an in-your-face jerk, but that's a biography for another time.

Josephine's dubious claim to fame was being poisoned in 1891, in Denver, Colorado. It was a landmark murder case - perhaps the first to be done by mail. Her doctor, T. Thatcher Graves of Providence, was convicted and later committed suicide in prison.

In 1885, the four-story octagonal tower on the left side (in the photo) was added to the original building.

Those poles sticking out of the sides used to support a glass awning, as you can see in the photo below. That's Jerothmul on the horse.

Above them is some beautiful carved embellishment.

The top floor boasts some great views, although the balcony is really too narrow to stand on, and wouldn't fit a chair.

And of course my favorite part, the solarium with its marvelous stained glass.

I was so lucky to be able to meet Kaitlyn Frolich, the Castle's Event Architect, back in late August. She took me on a tour, and gave me some history, and a sense of how the restoration is coming along. You guys, I squee'ed like a teenage girl over the inside of this house.

Every removed layer of paint or peeled-off wallpaper can reveal something new. Like this family crest, once painted over and now only faintly visible. It will be repainted to its former colors before it's lost for good.

Fortunately, there is a painter in residence at the Castle. He lives in one of the apartments on the second and third floors, and he's helping to recreate and restore some of the detail work.

These murals line the stairs and hallway on the main and second floors. They originally featured hunting scenes, like the turkey there at the bottom (as was the fashion at the time), and most of them do again. But the artist also included a couple of fanciful images, including the unicorn for Kaitlyn.

There is remarkable detail in the wooden floors throughout.

Like the rest of the house, those floors are being lovingly restored, room by room.

Unfortunately, not one of my photos of the solarium turned out. Instead, here's a photo from the Castle's Facebook page. Scrolling through their albums is time well spent.

The house is full of small details. Jerothmul was a fan of lions, and you'll find them peeking out all around the house.

In fact, if you visit, make a point of looking up. The ceiling details are not-to-miss.

The main entertaining space downstairs is the formal dining room, complete with built-in bar/buffet with beautiful stained glass.

Here's a bit better look.

The dining room is open to the ground floor of the 1885 turret, which is just as ornate.

The bottom picture is the top of the fireplace. And there are lots of fireplaces, each one different. These are just a few.

Off the main dining room is the butler's pantry, still with a few items on the shelves.

Parlors held an original nearly wall-sized mirror and huge wooden pocket doors. One of the previous owners, an elderly couple, had lived primarily downstairs in these areas.

There's still considerable work to be done in the Castle, but the progress is obvious. I'm excited to see its various stages.

Ultimately, that beige exterior will give way to something more appropriate to its time period. Kaitlyn shared an artist's rendering with me.

It'll be spectacular when it's done.

And the main floor is already in use as event space. The PVD Lady Project hosted their gala there in December 2016. Other events are upcoming. By the time renovations are complete, Barnaby Castle will be the caché event space on the West Side.

A final note as we leave: although the current address is 299 Broadway, due to reparceling since 1875, its original address was 153. The evidence remains in the etched glass transom over the front door.


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