Description of Historic Place
The building at 5 Queen Street, known as Niagara Apothecary, is situated at Queen and King Streets in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The one-storey frame and clapboard building was designed in the Italianate style, constructed in 1853 and altered in 1866.
The Niagara Apothecary was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1970. A museum since 1971, the property is owned (since 1969) by the Ontario Heritage Trust and operated by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. The property is also designated by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake as a part of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Heritage Conservation District under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 1667-86).
Located at the corner of Queen and Kings Streets in the centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Apothecary is part of the downtown Heritage Conservation District designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act, as an area of historical and architectural significance. The apothecary contributes to the historic streetscape and stands out as an important example of confederation-era commercial architecture.
Niagara Apothecary is significant for its association with the development of pharmaceutical practice in Ontario, six generations of chemists and detailed accounts of medical treatment, during a 140 year period. The Niagara Apothecary opened in 1820 under the proprietorship of Rodman Starkwather. The current structure was built in 1853 and was likely originally used by lawyer and Judge E.C. Campbell, as an office. It was altered in 1866 to its present appearance and, in 1869, was bought by pharmacist Henry Paffard, for use as an apothecary. He operated his business there until 1901 when the building was bought by pharmacist James De Witt Randall. Both De Witt Randall and Paffard were important local businessmen and served as mayors of the town. The apothecary closed in 1964. At that time the pharmacy had been in continuous operation for 144 years, 95 of which were at the current location, and was owned by six different pharmacists, five of whom were apprenticed to predecessors. It was the longest continually operating pharmaceutical practice in Ontario. It was in operation before the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, in 1871, when the Pharmacy Act was enacted and the Ontario College of Pharmacy was created. The ledgers, account journals, cashbooks and prescription books dating from 1833-1964 indicated the concerns of the chemists, the diseases they encountered, the treatments they administered and revealed important information regarding pharmaceutical practice, treatments, and diseases in Ontario during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Niagara Apothecary is an example of confederation era commercial architecture with Italianate elements. Constructed in 1853, as a frame building, covered in clapboard, the building was transformed in 1866, from a modest Georgian building, with the construction of a front addition with Italianate elements. These changes focused on the street-façade. The large central door has a rounded-arch window, separated from two display windows by wood pilasters. The large round-arch display windows have cable or rope glazing bars forming an arcade with roundels above, a typical Italianate feature. The façade also has corner brackets embellished with pendants, an entablature with projecting shelf, and dentils beneath an entablature, with a fascia.
The interior has remained largely unchanged and provides an excellent example of an 1860s apothecary interior. Interior features include the original serving and dispensing counters, wall cases, deep cupboards, display shelves, and the ca. 1893 cash register. The elaborately carved black walnut prescription counter with an 1867 clock is well preserved. The interior also features three elaborate chandeliers (originally gasoliers) which hang from diamond-shaped plaster ceiling medallions, as well as much of the original pharmaceutical ware.
Niagara Apothecary underwent a limited archaeological assessment in 1988 which yielded over 2,700 items from the rear yard of the property. These were mostly in the form of brick debris (remnants of the foundation of a building on the site dating from the 1830s), and glass fragments from pharmaceutical bottles and windows. There was also evidence of a small gasworks at the rear of the property, indicating the production of pharmaceuticals and other by-products on site, that could be produced from coal. This is suggestive of the widespread practice of chemists in the 19th century to produce their own medicines in-house.
Source: OHT Property Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Niagara Apothecary include its:
- commercial architecture with Italianate elements
- clapboard siding on a wood frame
- gable-roof façade with large returns
- wood pilasters flanking the central entrance
- centre door with rounded-arch window
- arched display windows with glazing bars forming an arcade with roundel above
- cable-moulded wood glazing bars
- corner brackets embellished with pendants
- entablature with projecting shelf
- dentils beneath the entablature with a fascia
- serving and dispensing counters
- wall cases with shelving powder drawers
- deep cupboards topped with sloping cases used to display toiletries
- prescription counter
- 1867 clock atop the prescription counter
- three ornate chandeliers (originally gasoliers)
- intricate diamond-shaped plaster ceiling medallions
- 1893 cash register
- remnants of the brick foundation of an 1830s building formerly on the site