Hughes Drug Company
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The DesBrisay Block or Apothecaries Hall, as it is more widely known, is a National Historic Site of Canada due to its association with a prominent 19th century Charlottetown pharmacy. The impressive three storey, brick, commercial building was constructed in 1901 to replace a wooden building that was formerly on the site. Apothecaries Hall, and later Hughes Drug Store, were two pharmacy businesses that operated continuously from the site. The large building now houses Cow’s Ice Cream store, a Subway shop and the Evolution Artistic Hair Salon. The designation encompasses the building’s exterior and parcel; it does not include the building’s interior.
The historic value of the DesBrisay Block lies in the building’s association with the Apothecaries Hall/ Hughes Drug Company business; its Commercial style architecture; and its role as a landmark in Charlottetown.
The DesBrisay family built the DesBrisay Block in 1901. Prominent architect, William Critchlow Harris designed the building and the Lowe Brothers were hired as the contractors. The impressive structure was built with imported buff pressed brick from Ontario and trimmed with olive colored freestone and mottled brick. The new building replaced a large wooden building that housed Apothecaries Hall since its opening in 1810.
The building's definitive Commercial architectural style was popular in much of North America at the turn of the 19th Century. By replacing a more modest wooden structure with a solid brick/stone construction, it sought to emphasize improvement and progress. The more pronounced vertical height of the building was yet another symbol of the perceived optimism of the times. Other embellishments of such buildings included: decorative cornices, large storefront windows, and recessed entrances.
Thomas DesBrisay owned and operated an apothecary shop on the site since 24 December 1810. His son, Theophilus DesBrisay, continued in the business until 1874 when the DesBrisays sold the Apothecaries Hall business but kept ownership of the building. The new owners of the Apothecaries Hall business, Dr. Frank D. Beer and George E. Hughes, continued in their partnership until 1881, when Hughes assumed complete control of the business. Hughes eventually bought the building from the DesBrisay estate in 1924 and continued to operate the company until 1949, when Earle C. Baker took control of the business. Eventually, the pharmacy closed and the building has housed Cow’s Ice Cream and Subway since the 1980’s.
Apothecaries Hall is a landmark in Charlottetown. The building is located in what is referred to locally as Dizzy Block, an area that has been a thriving commercial section of Charlottetown for many years. Due to its striking appearance, association with Charlottetown’s early business community and its location, the building is vital to the Grafton and Queen Street streetscapes.
A prominent feature on the street immediately in front the building is a 19th Century cannon, set upright. Theophilus DesBrisay removed the cannon after it had fallen to the waters edge at the Charlottetown blockhouse. He had it placed on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets, in an upright position, with the muzzle pointing skyward. A flagstaff was placed in the bore of the gun, and the Union Jack was displayed for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860. The gun was also used as a hitching post for many years. It remains to this day, a unique commemoration of the first royal visit to PEI and a reminder of Charlottetown’s early military fortifications.
Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
The following character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of Apothecaries Hall:
- The size and shape of the brick exterior with various designs of freestone and colored brick
- The style and placement of the windows including the arched windows of the first floor and the deeply set, tall, single and grouped windows of the second and third floors
- The style and placement of the doors, including the arched doorway located on the corner of Grafton and Queen Streets, as well as the recessed doorway of the west side corner entrance
- The storefront of the south section with its large plate glass windows, transom lights and awnings
- The recessed storefront of the west side entrance, with its large plate glass window, doorway and transom light
- The high level of detailing including the multicolored brick bands, the dentil detailing between the second and third floors and the extensive detailing along the roof.
- The pediment of the south side roof with its decorative tympanum
- The decorative pilasters throughout the building’s facade
- The name and date that the building was constructed on the south side, second storey belt course of the building
- The 19th Century upright cannon situated on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets
- The location of the building on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets
Prince Edward Island
City of Charlottetown
City of Charlottetown Zoning and Development Bylaw
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
William Critchlow Harris
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
Cross-Reference to Collection