GW alumnus Richard Lucien Quigley opened the pharmacy in 1891, one year after he earned his a degree in pharmacy science. The surrounding area back then was mostly residential, twenty-one years after Quigley opened the pharmacy. Until 1938, Quigley filled prescriptions and sold medicines, and later served Cokes and burgers at the lunch bar. Most importantly, however, he was a friend to the students. According to Hatchet articles, Quigley said students would turn to him when they needed to borrow money for dates, and he was proud to say he never lost a cent. Al Kohrn took over the management of the pharmacy in the 1950’s and also served soda and ice cream to students passing by.
“The soda fountain was located along the west wall, parallel to 21st Street and a few soda fountain tables and wire chairs were arranged on the open floor near the soda fountain counter,” said Dorn McGrath, chairman of the Department of Geography. By the ’70s, Quigley’s featured a lunch counter, candy counter and pinball machines. History in the making was not uncommon at GW, and Quigley’s was a place to observe it. In a 1970 special issue of GW Magazine, Kohrn spoke about Quigley’s role during the Watergate scandal. “We never had any problems with vandalism,” Kohrn said in an article. “In fact, when we had trouble down at Watergate, and the police pushed the people back on campus … we stayed open while they were being tear-gassed and got as many kids in here as we could.” Famous people also enjoyed Quigley’s charm. In the mid-40s, students could find then GW student Margaret Truman waiting outside to meet her father for a soda. Jane Lingo, a 1946 GW alumnae who served as assistant director of University Relations, said she remembers the days when Quigley’s Pharmacy was still around.
“Quigley’s was the local drugstore, and it had a soda fountain on the right,” Lingo said. “My friend, Margaret Truman, went there regularly for hamburgers, but I used to go to Leo’s what’s now the GW Delicatessen.” Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.) mentioned Quigley’s in her 1994 GW Commencement address. She recalled the summer of 1968, when she interned in D.C. and occasionally stopped in the historic pharmacy.
The University bought the building in 1974, and the site became home to the Department of Geography in the following years.
Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy is honored to have been chosen to take up residence in such a historic building. It is with deepest respect for the generosity and spirit of Richard Quigley that we designed this restaurant. We hope that once again, the building can be a place for students, faculty, and neighbors to enjoy our fare as they did once over 100 years ago.