Apothecary Hall
(488 Water Street, St. John's)

The Apothecary Hall, designed by John E. Hoskins, was built by M. & E. Kennedy Contractors and builders in 1922. The original owner of the building was Peter O'Mara who used the main floor for a drugstore and used the upper level as a residence for his family. Peter O'Mara's association with pharmacy in Newfoundland began in 1899 when he opened his first drug store at 486 Water Street. In 1910 he was a founding member of the Newfoundland Pharmaceutical Society.

Apothecary Hall, St. John's, NL
Apothecary Hall, St. John's, NL
Apothecary Hall is a good example of an early 20th century commercial building in downtown St. John's.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

By 1922 O'Mara had outgrown his initial store and decided to build the current structure. The building is one of the few Art Moderne buildings in Newfoundland, and architect John E. Hoskins may have been inspired by the work of the famous Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. An outstanding architect, furniture designer, and painter who pioneered the Modern Movement in Scotland, Mackintosh's works exist as the greatest flowering of the British Arts & Crafts movement in either Scotland or England and had a profound impact on architects and designers around the globe. Mackintosh died in London in 1928.

The building was owned and operated by the O'Mara family and retained the name "Peter O'Mara's Drug Store" from 1922 until it closed in 1986. The building was subsequently bought in 1987 by the Newfoundland Pharmaceutical Association, which uses the second floor for administrative office space. They have since opened a Heritage Drug Store on the first floor.

The interior of Apothecary Hall was restored to resemble the drug stores which were built in St. John's after the Great Fire of 1892. Today, it stands as the last of the 19th-century-styled drug stores in St. John's. Although gas lighting was never used in the building, it contained gas pipes. The coin-operated gas metre was used in the production of distilled water and to prepare certain medicines.

The Heritage Drug Store is also named the James J. O'Mara Pharmacy Museum in honour of Peter O'Mara's cousin James, who was the guiding force behind the development of the pharmacy museum. The museum was established to celebrate and preserve the history of pharmacy in Newfoundland, which dates back to the 1830s, when a Scottish pharmacist, Thomas McMurdo, arrived and began to teach his trade. John T. O'Mara, another family member, was the first Newfoundlander to open a drug store, in 1874.

Inside the museum there are numerous antique pharmacy bottles, many containing their original substances. Of the approximate 2,200 artifacts in the museum, the most striking are the late 19th-century oak fixtures made in England. The furniture was brought to St. John's in the same year for use in Messers M. Connors Drug Store. The fixtures were later sold to Donald Hogan for his drug store, which closed in 1975. The Pharmaceutical Association then took possession and put it into storage until the opening of the museum.

In recognition of the Newfoundland Pharmaceutical Association's efforts to preserve an important part of Newfoundland's past, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador designated the Peter O'Mara's Drug Store a Registered Heritage Structure in June 1988. In 1989 a certificate of commendation was presented to the Newfoundland Pharmaceutical Association by the American Association of State and Local History, for preservation of the history of pharmacy in Newfoundland. This structure was also awarded the Southcott Award for heritage restoration by the Newfoundland Historic Trust.

Registered Heritage Structures Table of Contents

Also view the Apothecary Hall Registered Heritage Structure on the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador web site. The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site has on its site only a portion of the registered heritage structures in Newfoundland and Labrador. To view a complete list or search for a particular structure visit the Heritage Foundation's Property Search page.