At this rare, historic medical site, walking through the door takes you into April 1903. William Davies Hutchings, a Kentucky-born and trained doctor, moved to Madison in 1876. He practiced medicine at this location until his death in 1903. He purchased this c. 1840 modest Greek Revival building from Judge Cravens changing it “from a legal gristmill to a pharmacentical dispensary for the alleviation of bodily infirmities” as the local newspaper announced in 1882. Dr. Hutchings’ career spanned great changes in the theory and practice of medicine. At the beginning of his career, microorganisms and germs had not been identified as a cause of illness. Doctors had to create and mix their own medicines. By the end of his career, he was using a microscope to look at specimens and was referring prescriptions to the local drug store to be filled. His well-used library, instruments and records illustrate how committed he was to keeping current with the latest advancements in his field.
Matilda Koehler, the doctor’s wife, was known for her poetry which often appeared in the Madison Courier. Together they produced eleven children, three of whom died very young. They were an educated and well-traveled family, surprisingly sophisticated for a small town at the time. One of the remarkable children to emerge from the family was daughter Lida who was a skilled amateur photographer. Days after her father’s death, Lida took poignant photographs of his empty office. Those photos enabled the building to be restored as Dr. Hutching’s “Dispensary”. It is nearly identical to the day he closed the doors for the last time, thanks to Lida’s photos and the preservation of her father’s legacy.
Lida’s photography also gives us rare insight into late 19th and early 20th century life in Madison. She captured streetscapes, interiors of homes and people at play. Those photos have been a useful tool to aid in the restoration and preservation of many buildings in Madison. The only surviving grandchild, Elizabeth Keleman donated all the Doctor’s and family belongings to Historic Madison, Inc. in 1973. A video highlighting Lida’s photography plus Hutchings' family history and memorabilia are exhibited at the museum annex. The restoration was carried out by Historic Madison, Inc. which owns and operates the museum.