New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
One of the best museums in the New Orleans is located at 514 Chartres Street. It was purposefully selected to rehabilitate a vacant building that was historically confused as “Napoleon House.” (The building that supposedly was the “Napoleon House” was located on the corner.) In the mid-1900s when the city was transitioning from a morally decadent center to a more inclusive travel destination, the citizens of the Quarter sought to include the vacant house located situated between street numbers 514 and 516. Through extensive research and historical maneuvering, the Pharmacy Museum was born.
The Dufilho family arrived in the Crescent City from France in the early 1800s. The father and two brothers fashioned themselves druggists. Louis J. Dufilho, Sr. opened an apothecary in the French Quarter. During this time, Louisiana was enacting legislation to regulate the pharmaceutical industry. In 1804, the legislature enacted a law requiring all pharmacists to pass a 3-hour oral exam. According to historical documents, two men competed to become the first man to pass.
Either Francois Grandchamps or Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. are America’s first registered pharmacists. A third person, Jean Peyroux, was ruled out as his license was granted under Spanish rule and not a North American governing body. Peyroux’s contribution to the industry has been lost.
However, an argument for either Grandchamps or Dufilho holds. The organizers for the museum would have tourists believe that the argument is settled. It isn’t. But this issue is irrelevant to the wonderful museum.
According to the museum. Dufilho was the first person pass and to receive certification. He passed the exam in 1816. In 1823, Dufilho opened his own pharmacy at 514 Chartres. It was called La Pharmacie Françoise, alternatively Pharmacie Dufilho. Dufilho ran a pharmacy, soda fountain, hardware store, and post office out of the business.
The house was a Creole townhouse. The building housed a pharmacy on the first floor off the street. A courtyard led to slave quarters and horse stables. The family resided on the upper floors.
Dufilho sold the property to Dr. J. Dupas in 1855 for $18,000. Here is where the interesting stories begin. There is much speculation about what “medical” procedures Dupas conducted. Little is known about him; however, I am working on a follow-up blog that expands on his sinister activities.
The museum is interesting and unique for the city. It houses a vast collection of items and stretches beyond pharmaceutical items. It is more of a museum of medical practices. The first floor is a replica of the original pharmacy. The second floor is divided into 4 rooms, each highlighting an area of medicine.
Is the museum haunted? Honestly, I don’t know. While I did not conduct an investigation or activate any equipment, I did read of the various stories posted online. After you read of the nefarious acts conducted by Dupas, you may see how it could be haunted.
For more stories about New Orleans, watch the recorded session from Ghost Education 101, https://www.facebook.com/GhostEducation101/, recorded on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.