Why I love Toronto Reason #120
Toronto’s First Post Office
I celebrate Christmas again in January and my cousin asked me if he could send a letter to the same Santa with his second Christmas list or if there was another Santa he had to send his letter to. Regardless, this made me think of a field trip I took as a child to Toronto’s First Post Office sometime in December and how I had brought my letter to Santa with me.
Toronto’s First Post Office was opened in 1833 (which at that time was the City of York meaning it is also referred to as Fourth York Post Office for York had three offices prior to this one). It was designed for James Scott Howard who was the postmaster at the time. However, Howard only stayed at the residence until 1837 before the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, Francis Bond Head, questioned his loyalty and removed him. The new postmaster did not stay in the building and relocated elsewhere.
The building is a representation on Georgian architecture located on 260 Adelaide Street East. It is the only surviving post office that was part of the British Royal Mail system. It was also not only a post office but also a residence as well. It was a residence to the postmaster, for during that time postmasters needed to provide their own office, and therefore many attached their homes to it, making it a work a family place.
Once it became a defunct Post Office it became a school (DE La Salle Institute) in 1870’s where the owners added Victorian styled windows and made some modifications to the exterior taking away from its Georgian style. Furthermore, when the United Farmers Cooperative took ownership in1926 they added a mansard roof and converted it to a cold storage facility. After the famers the building was abandoned in the early 70’s. A few years later in 78’ the building caught fire (which I find ironic considering it boasted itself as being one of the few buildings that survived the great fire of 1849) and the Town of York Historical Society (which was the city the Post Office originated in) restored the building.
Today it is known as Toronto’s oldest functioning Post Office, where you can still buy stamps and it still does post office like duties. It is also a museum that discusses how mail was delivered, how people got mail ready and about the first postmaster. Remember it is also significant because it does not tell the history of Canada Post, for that was not established until 1851 long after the Postmaster left. Rather it was part of the British Colonial Post at the time and therefore contains that history. Also part of the history that I learned and has stayed in my mind forever is that mail was not delivered to your home and it was the postmasters duty to post the names of people who had received mail in the local paper so that they could retrieve it.
What I remember from this field trip was that I got to put an official stamp with wax on the back to seal my letter to Santa. Which I thought was so cool that I didn’t want to send it away afterwards.
For having a history that extends beyond Canadian Institutions and the City of Toronto is
Why I Love Toronto.