25 S. 26th Avenue E. | Architect: William Hunt | Built: 1904 | Extant
Julius Howland Barnes was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1873, one of four children of Julia Hill and attorney Lucien J. Barnes, whose work moved the family to Washington D.C. and St. Cloud, Minnesota, before settling in Duluth in 1885. When his father died in 1890, seventeen-year-old Barnes left school and took a job as an office boy for grain brokers Ames-Brooks & Co., and the following year he became a clerk. There he learned the trade with Ward Ames Jr., son of the firm’s president, Ward Ames. Barnes and Ames Jr., both born on February 2, 1873, would eventually run the business.
In 1896 Barnes wed Harriet Belle Carey, after which the happy couple moved into a house at 1209 London Road. A year later Harriet gave birth to daughter Gertrude Margaret Barnes and a son, Robert Leighton Barnes, came along in 1904. By then Julius was vice-president of the Barnes-Ames Co. and a new house for the Barnes family was under construction at the northeast corner of Branch Street and Twenty-Sixth Avenue East.
Designed by architect William Hunt, the Barnes house is one of Duluth’s few Mission Revival style homes, popular in the U.S. from 1890 to 1915 and inspired by the Spanish missions built in California beginning in the late eighteenth century. Mission Revival homes feature massive walls faced in white stucco—which in California kept the building cool. Hunt chose to build the Duluth house out of brick to better hold the stucco and stand up to a cold climate. The house is also capped with a telltale low-pitched roof with dormers and wide eaves supported by exposed rafter tails and topped with clay tiles. Like the more prosperous missions, the house’s front porch is modestly adorned with curved gables. A matching porte cochère and garage were added several years after the house was complete.
The Barneses had another son, Herbert, in 1906. By then Barnes was looking to do more than buy and sell grain. In 1909 he founded the Western Linen Company, later known as Klearflax Looms, which made linen rugs spun from flax straw. During World War I, Barnes organized the McDougall-Duluth shipyards with Ames Jr. and Alexander McDougall. He also served as president of the U.S. Food Administration Grain Corporation and United States wheat director and in that capacity controlled food shipments to Europe, where the war was causing shortages and starvation. Barnes was an active proponent of the St. Lawrence Seaway and was named the president of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in 1929. Harriet died in 1957, and the next year Barnes sold his house and moved into a room at the Holland House Hotel. He was found dead in his room on April 17, 1959. The first salt-water vessel to reach Duluth via the St. Lawrence Seaway passed through the Duluth Ship Canal two weeks later. Learn more about Julius Barnes here.