Family Activities:

Apothecary Museum (Stabler-Leadbeater)


Apothecary Museum (Stabler-Leadbeater)

105 - 107 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, 22314, VA

While nobody promised it’s easy to drag kids into an apothecary museum, a simple mention of Harry Potter’s name and you can at least push them through the door. What’s an apothecary, you ask? Good question. Long ago an apothecary was our equivalent of a pharmacy. In our world, we see a doctor, get a diagnosis and take the prescription to a pharmacist. Back when, people simply went to the apothecary, showed the owner where it hurt and received a recommendation for a particular herb, elixir or tincture.

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is a small gem of a museum located just a step off of King Street with chatty docents dying to share their specialized knowledge. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary was founded in 1792 and operated until a whopping 1933 — and the pack rat of a family saved everything. We can even read a request on behalf of Martha Washington that reads, “Mrs. Washington desires Mr. Stabler will send by the bearer, a quart bottle of his best castor oil and the bill for it.” Signed Mount Vernon, April 22, 1802. Martha died to the day one month later.

What’s in an apothecary for a kid? Like I said, drop Harry Potter’s name. In creating her books, J.K. Rowlings took inspiration from the Old-World apothecary while conjuring her wizards and witches and their reliance on herbs and potions. But there’s plenty of gory stuff that will enchant kids too. My boys took macabre enjoyment in seeing the horrific-looking blood letting devices of old, hearing about the use of leaches and learning how differently gunshot wounds were handled in the Revolutionary War versus the Civil War. My boys were mesmerized — and actually wanted to climb on — the yesteryear lift that once brought caseloads of supplies to the second floor.