Cultural Spotlight: New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

 

If you take a look into New Orleans’ charming past, you’ll find a bevy of historic haunts. From Preservation Hall to the famous Cafe Du Monde, important historic and cultural landmarks makeup a large part of the city’s presence.  

One site that hosts a significant part of the Big Easy’s history is the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, located in the French Quarter. Listed under the National Register of Historic Places, the museum offers an expansive collection of pharmacy and healthcare artifacts in Louisiana. Serving as a unique educational tool and reminder of NOLA’s rich role in United States medical history.

Let’s explore what the New Orleans Pharmacy has to offer:

History

Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. was America’s first licensed pharmacist. Contributing to the significance, reputation, and integrity in the field of pharmacy, he played an essential role in medical history. However, his most significant contributed occurred in 1816. Signed by Governor Claiborne in 1804, the state of Louisiana passed a law requiring that all pharmacists must take an examination for licensing to practice professionally. Previously, there were informal territory licensing measures that were not largely enforced. A person could apprentice as a pharmacist for 6 months and then make their own medicines and concoctions without any safety and standard practices or regulatory oversight. Often, the public received incorrect dosages or wrong and ineffective medications. However, the passage of the 1804 law established a board of credible pharmacists and physicians to administer three-hour oral examinations at the Cabildo in Jackson Square. As the first person to pass the licensing examination, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr.’s apothecary shop became the first pharmacy in the United States to operate on the basis of scientific adequacy. Today, the museum sits on the site of America’s first licensed apothecary.

Mission

To further the history and interest into New Orleans and the medical history of America at-large, the museum proudly promotes the development and education of pharmacology history for the general public since 1950. The museum holds over 3,000 artifacts and seeks to address the deep cultural understandings of medical issues at the time while helping visitors understand how pharmacology developed in New Orleans.

Exhibits

The museum, also called La Pharmacie Francaise, is located in a townhouse On the first floor, the museum showcases artifacts such as show globes, opium, perfumes, cosmetics, “gris gris” voodoo potions, patent instruments, surgical instruments, administrative methods, prescriptions and compounding, and insights into questionable medical practices of the time.

The second floor plays host to the unique living quarters and architecture of the building, local excavated medicine and voodoo bottles, and Dr. J. William Rosenthal’s spectacles collection. Among the museum’s most exotic findings, guests can see live leeches, pre-Civil War syringes, and cupping jars. Guests can also view what a physicians study and sick room looked like in the past.

Many of the exhibits show instruments that are deeply tied to the culture and folklore of New Orleans’ diverse cultural heritage. In addition, a historic courtyard displays plants and herbs that were, and still are, often used in medicines. A carriage house, and loggia help give more clarity into the everyday lifestyles of people who used this building.

Admission for the museum is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors/students. It’s also free for children under 6-years-old. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Located at 514 Charles St in New Orleans, all admission features a free 1 p.m. guided tour, except Saturdays. As one of the best museums in New Orleans, according to numerous travel sites, be sure to check out one of the most enchanting and introspective museums in NOLA’s cultural and historical landscape.

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Cultural Spotlight: New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bayou St. John

An 1887 painting of the Bayou St. John by William Woodward entitled “Bayou Saint John at end of Grand Route Saint John”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans, the Bayou St. John area boasts a more secluded and peaceful atmosphere of the city. Bayou St. John is known for its haven of tree-lined streets and avenues, gardens, and galleries. It is often referred to as one of the most historic neighborhoods in New Orleans and frequented for its beautiful, natural environment.

If you’re looking to relax or take a contemplative stroll, this largely residential neighborhood is a great way to spend the day by the gentle waters of the bayou. But just as it’s gentle waters flow through the neighborhood so does the history of the city.

History

Also called the Faubourg St. John neighborhood, the neighborhood is bounded by Bayou Road/Gentilly Boulevard and Belfort Avenue to the north, Orleans Avenue to the South, as well as North Broad Street to the East. The Bayou St. John creates its Western boundaries.

Native tribes first guided Jean Baptiste Bienville LeMoyne to the Bayou St. John’s waters in 1708, he knew he wanted to find the present day site of New Orleans by these waters. The five mile separation between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain made transporting materials easy along the bayou. The natives often identified and used this route as the safest and shortest way from the Gulf to the Mississippi River.

Many buildings in the neighborhood were built in the late 1800s up until the early 1900s with many houses along the bayou counted as the oldest remains of the city, dating to the late 1700s and early 1800s. For more than a century the bayou was the main waterway in and out of the city. Originally, the waterway was used as a trade route for the local Native American tribes. In fact, “Bayou” is an adaptation of the Choctaw or Mobilian word “bayuk” or “bayouk”. As European settlers populated the area, many traders, travelers, and residents got their first experience of New Orleans by this stretch of water. It was used as a shortened entryway to Lake Pontchartrain.

In fact, the waterway was part of the lifeblood of the city. In addition to boats —  pulled by horses on either side — being used for travel and commerce, it was also a center for voodoo. Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo queen, hosted rituals with thousands of practitioners at the Bayou where it was safe from police raids in the early 1800s.

Although neighborhoods were established around the Bayou, the wet environment made it hard to live and construct buildings in. However, by 1857 improved drainage systems and transportation made it more stable for developing neighborhoods. By the 1930s, more houses were built along the bayou. Yet, residents complained about unclean environment due to increased activity. As a result, congress ordered an end to all navigational on the bayou use by 1936.

Several historic homes remain with many late 19th century homes have been built in between these early architectural pieces, creating a peaceful and scenic streetscape. Architecture in the area consists of shotgun singles, raised cottages, and arts & crafts homes with a large number of houses that were originally doubles, but have since been converted to single family homes. Many New Orleans residents boast about the beautiful bayou view and the recreational activities that the waterway provides its visitors.

Today, the bayou is used as a meeting place for downtown Mardi Gras Indian tribes as they prepare their music, song, and dance during the parade’s festivities. The event is called “Super Sunday” and it’s not limited to the Mardi Gras season.

Landmarks:

  • The Pitot House —  The only historical Creole colonial home open to the public
  • Lafitte Greenway —  A beautiful parkway perfect for picnics
  • Bayou St. John —  Rent paddleboards, kayaks, and see wildlife on the shores of the historic Bayou
  • 900 Block of Moss Street —  A block of seven architectural marvels
  • Kayak-Iti-Yat tour —  Go on a kayak tour of the bayou’s twisting waterways

Restaurants:

The city wouldn’t exist without its humble beginnings and history in the Faubourg St. John neighborhood. To get to fully experience the decadent history of New Orleans, make sure you schedule an activity or a fun walking tour on your journey throughout the city!

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bayou St. John