Friday, August 29, 2014

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum - Alexandria

(Thank you, Dawn, at We Call it Junkin', for featuring this post!)
During our recent trip to Alexandria, VA, a town full of rich US culture and fun, one of the historical tours we took advantage of was the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (1732-1933).  This apothecary was established in 1732 by a Quaker family, and still stands today (as a museum). Not only the buildings, but much of the contents within, remain intact as the family-run business left things upon closing its doors during the Depression in 1933 (see photo below). If you love an industrial look, you're going to love some of the items in these photos!
Work counter of Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, 2nd floor. Wooden tool on edge (center) is a primitive pill cutter
Here's a side-by-side view of the apothecary's two buildings, as viewed from the past, and the present:
The Stabler-Leadbeater buildings: Past (L, 1907) and Present (R). Photo credits:  Wikipedia.org
Of the pair of buildings comprising the apothecary, we entered the building on the right (see photo above), currently the museum shop. That building's sign from the past photo (taken in 1907) says "Leadbeater. Drugs, Oils, Spices". We began our tour by walking through a pass-through to our left, the retail space of the old apothecary (the building that says "Leadbeater's Drug Warehouse").  There are a total of three floors (two of which we saw), plus a basement (which was cordoned off from public viewing). The photo below is the view upon entry into the retail area, first floor.
Left side counter space of Stabler-Leadbeater retail apothecary
With creaky, wooden floors throughout, the first floor retail space design was basically duplicative on each side, with marble and glass countertops, covering wood and glass cabinets. Almost all of the contents were original to the building, with traces of many of the contents remaining in the bottles.
Right side counter space of Stabler-Leadbeater retail apothecary
The first floor, looking straight back from the front door, with counters on either side, looked a bit like a train station.
Center back wall of Stabler-Leadbeater retail apothecary
The glass sign at the center back (above photo) gives a timeline to the apothecary's family ownership.  The clock, although original, no longer works. I can't remember what was hand-painted on the arched windows - perhaps family names, but I can't be certain.  Behind this wall was the staircase.
Detail of apothecary bottles in Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary
Some of the bottle shapes reminded me of mid-century Blenko pieces. The floor boards were well-worn in the area where the pharmacist stood during most of his working hours in the retail space. This area was next to the floor safe behind the counter in the photo above (far back).

Look at the detail on the countertop cases (there were two), with the eagle finials (below).
Countertop display case with eagle finial in Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary
Moving to the second floor, which was restored in 2006, the first room we entered was the family's meeting room / library, with original books still in the cases on one wall.
Second floor meeting / library space in Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary
In the middle of the floor was a trap door. When lifted (still working), one could see directly down to the first floor. Across from the wall of books is where this tour started to get really good, in my opinion. First, we entered through a sliding door on tracks (photo below). After stepping up, we were in the drug manufacturing / office rooms.
Track door to drug manufacturing room and office in Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary
The counter space you see in the photo below was built like an island in the middle of the floor (the closeup photo at the beginning of this post is a closer view of the work counter of this space). Several architectural features in this building are what homeowners today are coveting for an industrial / farmhouse vibe.
Leadbeater & Sons Paints, drug manufacturing work counter of Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary.  Notice the hand-painted crates on the shelves, labeling many of the prescription remedy ingredients, such as dragon's blood.
As you may have noticed already in the photos so far, pharmaceuticals were not the only goods sold in the apothecary to customers including Martha Washington and Robert E. Lee (documents on premise from these historical persons).  The Stabler-Leadbeater families also sold paints, perfumes, and many other household sundries, including Shinola shoe polish...
Shinola Home Set - do you remember the old saying that goes with this product?
....along with drinks such as Allens Red Tame Cherry.....
Advertising graphic for Allens Red Tame Cherry: "Drink Allens Red Tame Cherry and you'll smile too"
...as well as fly and flea remedies.The way to rid fleas? Place Tanglefoot fly paper under the mattress while sleeping so the fleas would be drawn to and stick. Yuck!
"Catch your flies with Tanglefoot".  You could catch fleas with it too!
I was in love with all the items in this entire section of the building!
Wall of uniformly constructed crates in Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary's manufacturing room
Most of the crates on the walls were uniform in construction, but there were also a couple that were makeshift, like the one below, from a Fels Naptha Soap box.
Even though it's a blurry photo, I wanted to show another familiar product container used as a makeshift storage unit but, more amusingly, how it was advertised long ago.
"Drink Coca-Cola For Headache & Exhaustion" - pretty much still the same reasons for drinking, no?
Those last two product graphics are much as they look today (minus the Coke claim), with both products still available in our grocery stores.

Here are a couple more photos of the office space, adjacent to the drug manufacturing space:
Stabler-Leadbeater office work table, with mimeograph machine on desk (left).
The lights would have been gas-operated, only updated with the recent restoration.
Storage wall behind desk space at Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary
This tour totally fascinated me, as I have several family members who are currently pharmacists, including both of my brothers. Some aspects of the retail profession haven't changed much, it would appear!

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is located at 105-107 S. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 (Phone: 703.746.3852). The museum tour does have a published schedule and entry fee, but there is quite a savings if you purchase a museum pass for $10 if you visit Alexandria and plan on at least two of the nine (9) historic sites in the city. More information can be found on the link provided.

I have a couple other noteworthy tours from our mini-vacation in Alexandria, VA that I'll be sharing in the coming weeks. I was not compensated for writing this post; however, I did win a trip (via random drawing) to the town from The Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association, which included a "Key to the City" museum passes. All opinions and photos are my own, except as noted.

Related posts:
Visiting Old Town Alexandria - on the town!
Treasures from the Trip to Alexandria

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