The Niagara region is filled with historic sites that mark the history of human settlement in the region, both native and from the nation founded by European settlers. While many of the sites that receive the majority of attention are often militaristic in nature, reflecting the region’s involvement in the War of 1812, there are many other buildings and museums that reflect Niagara’s history and development with a wider lens.
The Niagara Apothecary in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a small museum on Queen Street in the centre of town. It’s hard to miss – the single-storey white building is of an old Georgian architectural style reflecting its hundred-year-plus age.
The apothecary – a precursor to modern pharmacies – first started operating in 1820, and was the place to go for ointments, tonics and health remedies of the time. The building that still stands on the site was first built in 1869, and was in use until the practice closed in 1964. Shortly after closure the Ontario Heritage Trust swept in to secure the building’s protected status and began a painstaking restoration process. The museum was first opened, in conjunction with the Ontario College of Pharmacists, in 1971.
Both the exterior and interior of the building reflect its state upon opening in 1869. Inside are displays of the products that were for sale, as well as some of the equipment used by the staff, including dispensaries where most of the pills and compounded medication were fashioned on the spot.
The museum has no admission fee and is supported by voluntary donations. There are staff on site mostly made up of former pharmacists, who can explain both the variety of early drugs and remedies the store traded in as well as overview the detailed and well-documented history of the apothecary’s near-century of operation.
If planning a visit, keep in mind the apothecary isn’t open all year round – the doors are open from about mid-May to mid-October and is worth visiting if you’re taking a stroll down iconic Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
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