Strolling down the charming but always bustling Queen Street, it’s easy to miss the sign “The Niagara Apothecary.”
This postage-size shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a pharmacy museum and they welcome all visitors, including us at Embrace Niagara just a few days ago.
The Niagara Apothecary used to be a very real pharmacy that operated in Niagara from 1820 to 1964. After the business closed, the Ontario Heritage Foundation acquired the property and decided to leave the space open to the public to function as a historic museum. They meticulously restored the interior and it feels as though you have stepped into a pharmacy in the early 1900’s.
The staff volunteers are made up of retired pharmacists and many historical items have been donated to the Niagara Apothecary to display. As you walk around and look at the various displays and detailed set-ups, it is evident that this place continues to exist due to the genuine passion of a select group of people.
The volunteers enthusiastically explain to us how the Apothecary used to function. Back then you would hand your pharmacist a doctor-written prescription and he would disappear in the back room. Grabbing his mortar and pestle, he would pull from the various minerals, alcohols, unrefined crude drugs and et cetera.
Apprenticeship programs, not college, were the way new pharmacists were trained in the art of medicine. Each pharmacist’s potion or poultice would vary from one to the other since it wasn’t an exact science but an art. An interesting time for medicine albeit not a very safely administered one.
After staying for over an hour, it was clear that we were only scratching at the history of the place. The Niagara Apothecary is steeped in intrigue, atmosphere and a devotion to the craft of medicine. We’d recommend a visit the next time you find yourself nearby.
For operating hours, please visit their website at niagaraapothecary.ca.