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“Time Capsule of the Apothecary Art”

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
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Civil War History Walking Tour of Alexandria
Ranked #6 of 87 things to do in Alexandria
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Apothecary served local customers, including the Washingtons and Robert E. Lee, between 1792 and 1933. The shop was transformed into a museum shortly after its closing and visitors can still view the original ingredients, products, and documents left behind by this 141-year-old family business.
San Jose, California
Level Contributor
217 reviews
107 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 196 helpful votes
“Time Capsule of the Apothecary Art”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 15, 2013

Imagine walking into a drug store where you can get a sleeping potion or aphrodesiac made to order. (No kidding, one of the drawers in the upstairs was labeled "Aphrodesiac.") This museum is actually better described as a place where time has stood still. It stopped in the 1930's, so remember that some of the ambiance will reflect later times. This is the sort of place where my father's older brother, who became a pharmacist in 1900, might have worked. The downstairs has patent medicines and prescriptions for the famous (like Robert E. Lee) on display, but the upstairs is the most intriguing, a veritable Hogwarts of intriguing natural (?!!) ingredients. No eye of newt, but you can find just about everything else. Step into the 18th century and wonder how our ancestors managed to survive some of these "cures." Still, some of the ingredients are still used in our modern medicines, and this was the forerunner to the compounding pharmacy.
A fascinating tour, though I might like some interpretive displays outside of the time capsule that is the museum, to put it all into perspective. Overall, though, it was a great look at period medicine and materia medica.

Visited June 2013
1 Thank Jilara
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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179 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • Russian first
  • Any
English first
Jumpin' all over the world
Level Contributor
188 reviews
61 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 107 helpful votes
“So interesting!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 30, 2013

We went to this museum when Old Town was having a free museum day. We were very pleasantly surprised with how good and interesting the tour was. The place has hardly been touched since it closed in the 1930s -- there are even still powders and liquids in the pharmacy jars. We'd definitely take guests there to visit.

Visited March 2013
Thank RachelinKabul
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
173 reviews
54 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“Disappointed asked to leave as they were doing a tour”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 22, 2013

4 of us arrived in the shop and before we could look around what was on sale we were asked to leave as the lady wanted to take a couple on a tour of the apothecary next door through an archway and needed to lock the door to do it. All it would have taken was 5 minutes of their time for us to look around. The place was recommended by both Gadsbys tavern and the visitors centre but the staff were too busy to allow visitors spend more than 10 seconds in the gift shop. We came all the way from the UK, it isn't like we can pop back next week.

Visited June 2013
2 Thank tigger32
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Liz W, Manager at Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, responded to this review, June 24, 2013
Thank you for coming all the way from the UK to visit Historic Alexandria! We are glad you enjoyed our sites while here + am sorry you were disappointed with your experience at the Apothecary Museum. Due to our commitment to keeping a regular tour schedule, our staff is not able to leave the museum shop unattended while starting a tour. This sometimes leads to a shortened shop visit for guests not interested in a tour + we are sorry for that. We hope you understand + we look forward to welcoming you to Alexandria in the future.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bluffton, Ohio
Level Contributor
94 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
“Wonderful History”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 6, 2013

Many items well preserved and the history was interesting, but overall not a great variety of apothecary items. Everything was to have been consistent with that time period and that would have certainly limited their inventory. Any pharmacist should make this a must.

Visited May 2013
Thank RWM72942
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
39 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 93 helpful votes
“Where Martha Washington got her castor oil”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 12, 2013

As a general rule, I avoid museum tours like the plaque. But this wonderful gem of an 18th century apothecary is the exception that proves the rule. Walking through old Town, the modest storefront at 105-107 South Fairfax Street has limited hours so check the official Alexandria government web site http://alexandriava.gov/historic/apothecary/default.aspx?id=36940
The cost of the docent guided 30 minute tour is only $5. What is amazing is how the owner had to walk away from his business during the Depression and just locked everything up. The four story warehouse just sat there until the City took it over. The first floor is just full of curious bottles but after the gift shop cashier turns into your tour guide, you get to cross of the roped area and go upstairs also. There you can see stuff like A written request from Martha Washington for some castor oil before she died. Even more intriguing are drawers labelled with exotic concoctions like ""Dragon's Blood"! - but they are out of stock of it for the last hundred years. Regular stuff for the 18th century is there like opium, mercury and sulfur
Truly a fascinating and informative tool with all kinds of cool medical tidbits. Take a walk back in time and see what Harry Potter would have seen.

Visited March 2013
2 Thank CHARM2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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