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The Apothecary - 5 Queen Street

 The Niagara Apothecary Museum, one of the most recognizable buildings on Queen Street in Old Town Niagara on the Lake. Photo:David Hemmings.




At the corner of King and Queen Streets lies the Niagara Apothecary Museum - easily recognizable by the golden mortar and pestle displayed prominently on the front of the building. The building itself was restored in 1971 to reflect the structure as it was in 1869. It is a designated Ontario Heritage Trust site and is currently operated by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. The original designation for this piece of property was Lot 64m which  was deeded by the Crown in 1796 to Mr. William Dickson.


Dickson was a colourful character - a a lawyer, land speculator, member of the Niagara Horticultural Society, member of the Niagara Library, a Justice of the Peace and a member of the economic elite that dominated the Niagara Peninsula. This prime property then passed through the hands of a number of very prominent members of Niagara society including William and James Crooks, Reverend John Burns, and Edward C. Campbell.


The importance of pharmacists in early Niagara on the Lake cannot be overstressed. The first pharmacy opened circa 1820 on Prideaux Street (paralleling Queen Street) and would have been mainly a general store dispensing only whatever drugs, usually in short supply, were then available. Following a move to another part of Queen Street, the owner (Rodman Starkwather) offered whiskey by the barrel, dry goods, paints and patent medicines.


Mr. Starkwather sold his store in 1833 to James Harvey, who was a prominent member of Niagara society as a Justice of the Peace, member of the Board of Police, a Charter member of the Niagara Mechanics Institute (which became the town library) and secretary of the Niagara Fire Company. He was also a member of the first municipal council when Niagara was incorporated as a town in 1845. Mr. Harvey died of what was then called “consumption” – now known as pulmonary tuberculosis - in October, 1851. Many of the artifacts on display in the museum are thought to have been purchased from England by Mr. Harvey during his relatively short duration as town pharmacist.


The business then was eventually sold by Mr. Harvey’s heirs to an apprentice, Mr. Henry Paffard, in early 1852. Paffard purchased the current Queen and King corner location in 1869 from lawyer, later Judge, Edward Campbell. The building was completely re-vamped under Paffard’s instruction which included the floor being lowered, the ceilings raised, installing black walnut counters and an elaborate dispensary. Paffard was a controversial figure. During his first term as Lord Mayor, his activities resulted in threats that sparked the burning of both his home and pharmacy in 1866 (not the current location). He was the Town's longest-serving Lord Mayor, from 1863 to 1896. During this time, Paffard supported the creation of a local fire department, served as Treasurer and Secretary of the Mechanics Institute (Public Library), Charter member and vice-president of the Niagara Historical Society, President of the Niagara Choral Society in 1880 and president of the provisional directors of the then Royal Niagara Hotel on the waterfront. In addition to his mayoral duties, Paffard was an accomplished gardener, providing fresh figs to the then Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (Later George V and Queen Mary). Records indicate that the Apothecary was profitable with Paffard’s clientele including townsfolk, members of the military and persons from surrounding areas.


The Apothecary was purchased by John DeWolfe Randall, an apprentice of Henry Paffard, in 1898. Randall was also Mayor of Niagara between 1907 and 1909 and again during 1912 as well as being a member of the local Masonic Lodge, Chief Magistrate in 1913 and President of the Liberal Association of Niagara. He was also a graduate of the Ontario College of Pharmacy, and would be what is termed as a “go getter” trying to have Simcoe Park established and Queen Street paved (he was unsuccessful in both instances) but did have cement sidewalks installed. The steam train from Fort Erie (stated in 1854) and the electric tram from St Catharine’s both ran past the Randall’s pharmacy. The pharmacy also sold train/tram tickets as a business sideline. He died suddenly of what was most probably a stroke on March 13, 1914.


The next purchaser was Arthur Coyne who operated the pharmacy from 1914 to 1922 – a relatively short period of time. He also owned a pharmacy in nearby St. Catharines where he spent most of his time and effort. He simply found operating both businesses too much of a strain. Upon the sale of the property in 1922, Mr. Coyne took with him the bottles purchased by James Harvey many years previously. These would later be returned.

Erland Field purchased the pharmacy from Arthur Coyne in 1922 and ran the business until it closed in 1964 as a result of ill health. He followed the usual custom of having his name inserted into the centre window. Field had apprenticed with Randall and also graduated from the Ontario College of Pharmacists in 1913. He served with the Canadian Forces during WW1 and was a founding member of the local Legion in 1928. Failing health necessitated his giving up his practice in 1964 and he died the following year. He is buried in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church cemetery on Simcoe Street not far from his former place of work; however, prior to his death, he granted the Ontario College of Pharmacists and the Niagara Foundation first right of purchase.


The Apothecary was restored to the look and field as it was in 1869 when it first was opened as a pharmacy. Generously, the bottles that were taken by Arthur Coyne when he sold the building in 1922 were returned to the restorers. The pharmacists in the Niagara-on-the-Lake had been an essential and integral part of life in the Niagara region.


Further Information


This document is prepared by the Niagara Historical Society and funded in part by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors program.


Ownership & Management



The Apothecary
5 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
L0S 1J0

GPS Co-ordinates

Latitude 43.255006
Longitude -79.07094

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