Carl Barnett and his family came to Huntington in 1897 but when he was school age his parents sent him and his brother to live with their grandparents in Granville, OH, because his parents felt Granville public schools were better. Carl Barnett graduated from North High School in Columbus in 1912. He enrolled at Ohio State University in 1914 and received his Bachelor of Science degree in architectural engineering in 1918.
Carl’s first job was in Clarksburg, WV, where he taught manual training at the all-Black Kelly Miller School. He returned to Ohio in 1920 to become a teacher of carpentry and mechanical drawing at Central State University in Wilberforce, OH. He moved to Charleston, where he taught shop at the Henry Highland Garnet High School.
He sat and passed the State of West Virginia licensing examination in 1924, receiving the third architectural license issued to a Black architect in West Virginia. In spite of being licensed, however, opportunities to practice his profession in West Virginia eluded him. He returned to Columbus and took a job as an architectural engineer with the Black-owned C.W. Bryant Construction Company from August 1925 to November 1927 and from 1927 to 1929 he maintained a solo practice
Carl designed the Long-Garfield Filling Station and developed plans and specifications and supervised the construction of the Adelphi Savings and Loan Building. While he loved his work he could not financially sustain himself so in 1930 he returned to Huntington to teach art, European history, and mechanical drawing at Douglass High School. Barnett supplemented his teaching income by opening Notan Studio, a photography business, and by preparing permit drawings for houses. He retired from teaching in 1960.
In his practice, he designed larger structures, including Mount Zion Baptist Church in Fairmont, WV, and renovations on his home church, First Baptist Church in Huntington. Carl considered the design of small houses his architectural specialty. He designed and built houses for professors while at Central State University and he designed and built his own home while teaching in Huntington. In 1965, when he was seventy, Barnett engaged in probably the biggest architectural undertaking of his career—he was commissioned to design and supervise the building of the replacement for Huntington’s First Baptist Church, which had been destroyed by fire.
Carl died on December 18, 1978, in Huntington and was buried in Huntington’s Springhill Cemetery. The Carl Barnett Photography Collection is housed at Marshall University.