Step back in time with a visit to Alexandria, VA's Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Once a humble, local apothecary, the museum contents are what was left here when the apothecary closed in 1933!
"Apothecary" isn't a word you hear much any more. Today's equivalent would be a pharmacy. Back in the "old days," however, apothecaries served much as pharmacies do now: producing medicines and selling combs, soap, and other household items.
America’s Oldest Apothecary
That's what the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary was doing when the modern world came along and drove it out of business. At its height in 1865, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary had 11 other buildings throughout the city supplying nearly 500 area pharmacies.
It had been around for sometime, too. Edward Stabler founded the business in 1792 by and it stayed open continuously at this spot until 1933. 141 years of business, wiped clean by progress.
Luckily, a Baltimore ice cream merchant named L. Manuel Hendler was around when the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary folded. When the building and its contents went up for auction, Hendler was there and picked up the lot: lock stock, and barrel. His purpose? To reopen it as a museum of America’s oldest apothecary, of course!
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary opened as a museum in 1939 and remains one to this day. That's 141 years as an apothecary and 79 years as a museum, with only a 6 year break in between.
When you visit the museum, the bottles and instruments you see, along with their contents, are the originals from when the store closed. Much of the medicine was produced on-site in the upstairs workshop. Company ledgers are also on display in the museum. They detail purchases from all manner of folks, including such notable figures as Robert E. Lee and Martha Washington.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary also sold farm and garden equipment, surgical and dental instruments, and typical household items. The museum is like a window into the 1930's, offering a snapshot of daily life from a world now long gone.
Visit the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
105-107 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314
The museum offers 30 minute guided tours for up to 10 people at a quarter past and a quarter to the hour. Special, one-hour "Geek Tours" are also offered throughout the year.
Visit the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum website for hours, directions, and tour information.
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