Photo: The Providence Evening Bulletin, Christmas 1909
J. B. Barnaby’s clothing store was located in the building on the corner of Westminster and Dorrance, where Dress Barn just closed down. This advertisement from a hundred years ago (click above to zoom in) features such seasonal delights as “auto gauntlets”, “the famous holeproof hosiery” and “Men’s Slippers – Romeos, Everetts and Operas in tan and black”. Also note how Santa Claus is carrying a policeman’s truncheon, and wears a numbered police badge. The instruction at the top was clearly intended to be taken seriously.
JB Barnaby and Co opened at this location in 1876. Following a fire in 1890, the building was rebuilt in its current form, although back then it housed a main staircase “designed after the famous staircase of the Grand Opera House in Paris.”
Jerothmul B. Barnaby himself also built the Conrad Building, at 375 Westminster Street, and ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for Governor in 1877. He died in 1889; his wealthy widow Josephine subsequently died in 1891, apparently poisoned by her personal doctor-lawyer-advisor. He had, it was said, sent her a bottle of whisky laced with arsenic, labeled “From your friends in the woods”, in order to benefit from her will. The subsequent court trial drew national media coverage. The alleged perpetrator, Thomas Graves, was sentenced to hang; he won his appeal, but committed suicide before a second trial could begin.
In the late 1890s, JB Barnaby’s took over a firm called Jerome Kennedy and Company, and later exchanged that name for Barnaby’s above the door. It continued to sell menswear at this location until 1978.