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What post offices used to look like in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / January 6, 2014

post offices history torontoThe first post office in Toronto dates back to 1833, though three others preceded it in the Town of York. Located on what was then known as Duke Street, the structure still stands to this day at 260 Adelaide East (and functions as a post office, no less). While we take it at least somewhat for granted today (and await reduced service in urban areas), the postal service played a crucial role in Toronto's growth into a bonafide city.

As such, despite the modesty of the earliest postal stations in York, the structures built in the mid 19th century were grand to say the least. Perhaps the best example of this is the General Post Office, formerly located at 36 Adelaide Street West at the top of Toronto Street. Designed by Henry Langley between 1869 and 1873, the ornate building was the centre of postal operations in Toronto, and had the stature to go with such an important role.

The building was idiotically demolished in 1958, which was around the time that Toronto began to purge itself of many of its finest old buildings. The post offices of the mid-20th century naturally lack the pomp of those from a century before: they're typically pared down, pragmatic affairs. The last of the truly grand postal buildings to be constructed in Toronto was the Toronto Postal Delivery Building (1941), the facade of which is preserved on the east side of the Air Canada Centre.

Although not particularly ornate, its art deco exterior and large size were a reminder of the importance conferred upon postal operations in this city and beyond. Here's a look back at the glory days of the post office in Toronto.


201413-postal-workers-sorting-1900s.jpgPostal workers sort through mail, 1900s

201413-toronto-street-post-office-1909.jpgGeneral Post Office, 1909

201413-old-scarborough-post-office-1909.jpgOld Scarborough Post Offce, 1909

201413-postal-station-k-nt-1910s.jpgPostal Station K, 1910s

201413-jefferson-post-office-1912.jpgJefferson Post Office, 1912

201413-postal-pillar-yonge-rich-1916.jpgPostal pillar near Yonge and Richmond, 1916

201413-claiming-mail-strike-1919.jpgClaiming mail after postal strike, 1919

201413-parcel-post-adelaide-st-1919.jpgGeneral Post Office, 1919

201413-postal-workers-1924.jpgPostal workers, 1924

201413-waiting-mail-station-e-1924.jpgWaiting for mail after postal strike, 1924

201415-postal-delivery-building-ed.jpgToronto Postal Delivery Building, 1941

201413-postman-1947.jpgPostman, 1947

201413-int-postal-sorting-station-1960s-strike.jpgInterior postal station, sorting area 1960s

201413-int-postal-sorting-station-1960s-strike.jpgInterior postal station, sorting area 1960s

Toronto first post officeWhat Toronto's first post office looks like today.

Photos from the Toronto Archives and the Toronto Public Library



iSkyscraper / January 6, 2014 at 09:07 am
Interesting seeing the old UK-style postal boxes and "Royal Mail Canada" on the trucks.

While it is true that the lost post offices of yesterday are a tough loss architecturally, most cities have similar issues. Since they always had central locations, downtown post offices were frequently redeveloped in many large cities. As a consumer, I've come to look favourably on the elimination of post offices and their replacement with store-based postal franchise desks - it was the right move. Urban post offices in the US are now unbelievably bad, and Canadians don't realize how good they have it.
Postmistress Kate / January 6, 2014 at 10:58 am
Thanks for the great collection of photographs! And yes, Toronto's First Post Office is still open and operating as a Post Office (and a museum!) at 260 Adelaide St. E.
Susan / January 6, 2014 at 03:08 pm
This is great, Derek. Just a thought that you might want to make it clear that the top photo is a postcard of the old Post Office at the top of Toronto Street and 260 Adelaide. That would be quite the transformation!

We have a mailbox at the First Post Office and we are thrilled to be supporting such a wonderful institution!
ginnee / January 7, 2014 at 02:48 am
The address of Langley's central post office was on Adelaide Street East, not west. It was also known as the 8th post office. Number 7 still stands on the west side of Toronto Street, just north of King St E.
Anna F. / January 7, 2014 at 08:20 am
Derek, I love your articles on old Toronto!
Dave Coggins / January 7, 2014 at 03:41 pm
Even as a kid long before I set foot in Station A in 1981, I got a huge charge out of the "typo" - TORONTO POSTAL DELIVERY BVILDING.
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