As noted before, I’ve started in on a second edition of “River to Rails.” I will be looking inside public buildings, adding any new markers, and expanding the coverage for a mile or two beyond the two historic districts.
As with the first edition, I will post the occasional preview. Today we visit the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary at 106-108 S. Fairfax Street.
The other day I was talking with someone about my book. The conversation turned to the accuracy of the markers. It’s a topic that has come up before and something I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve tried to keep my own thoughts close to the vest. I’m not an expert on any one area, and one must tread these waters carefully. It’s like a book. Someone says, “it contains errors.” Our intentions are good when we pass that along, but it’s not always fair.
No one likes to be told they’re wrong. As painful as it can be, however, we must search for the truth, especially if it is etched in stone or metal. Someone in Old Town has done just that. For over 80 years, a silver tablet inside the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary has noted the following.
This tablet marks the spot where Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee was standing on October 17, 1859 when he received orders to proceed to Harper’s Ferry to suppress the insurrection of John Brown. The orders were brought to Colonel Lee by Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart.
Erected A.D. 1932 by R.E. Lee Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Alexandria, Virginia
It has been determined that this information is incorrect. Lee was evidently elsewhere when he received those orders. I don’t have all the details, so perhaps one of the local newspapers or someone else can cover this.
The marker will remain, as it is part of the history of the store.
If the Civil War is not your thing, perhaps you will be intrigued by another marker inside the Stabler-Leadbeater Museum.
In Honor of L. Manuel Hendler and Rose Duke who in 1933 acquired the contents of this apothecary, generously allowed to remain in its original position and on February 17th 1948 deeded it to the Landmarks Society of Alexandria, Virginia.
February 17th 1948 Landmarks Society of Alexandria Virginia
This is a fascinating story. I had never heard of Hendler or Duke.
Edward Stabler (1769-1831) founded the apothecary in 1792, a pharmacy that served Alexandrians for 141 years (first four years or so were at the corner of S. Fairfax and King Street). His son, William Stabler (1795-1852) and William’s brother-in-law and business partner John Leadbeater (1808-1860) ran the operation, as well as Edward S. (1836-1899) and Edward S. Jr. (1869-1933).
1933 was the year the family ownership ended. Competition from bigger companies and the hard economic times forced Edward S. Stabler, Jr. to declare bankruptcy. Concerned Alexandrian citizens and members of the American Pharmaceutical Association came to the rescue. That summer, L. Manuel Hendler, a household name in Baltimore’s ice cream circles, purchased the collection and archives.
Subsequently, the Landmarks Society of Alexandria purchased the two buildings. Hendler donated the contents and archives to the Landmarks Society. The museum was officially re-opened in 1939. After an extensive renovation, the Landmarks Society (now The Mortar and Pestle Society) donated the museum and its important contents to the City of Alexandria in November of 2006.
Guided tours of this landmark museum are available. It should be noted that Robert E. Lee was a customer here. Like researchers, museum staff and history buffs, I imagine he bought a lot of aspirin.
Note: Due to glare, I could not get a decent photo of the Hendler marker.
The third marker is this one.