Toronto's First Post Office

Toronto's First Post Office

An eccentric friend of mine recently sent me on a serendipitous journey to the building pictured above, whereupon I was met with unplanned hassles. It went a little like this...


1. Take the subway to King Station.

2. Walk east or take the streetcar to Church St. On the northeast corner of the intersection there is a sign.

St. James Cathedral

Upon my arrival there was indeed a sign, and it belonged to St. James Cathedral.

3. On this sign is a nine-letter word starting with "E". It is spelled out in an obvious pattern in the jumble below; find it, and black out the letters.

I peered closer. Aha! "Episcopal", a new addition to my vocabulary. With mounting excitement I blacked out the letters on the sheet I'd been given.

General Delivery Word Jumble

4. Go there and turn right.

A short walk north on Church led me to Adelaide St., whereupon I duteously turned right.

5. Keep walking to number 260. When you get there, you'll know what to do. Business hours are M-F 9-4, S,S 10-4. This mission expires in two weeks.

TO's First PO Door Sign

I arrived at the door of Toronto's First Post Office, a charming Georgian building erected in 1834 by James Scott Howard, and a little-known historical landmark situated right beside George Brown College. Today, it serves as a full-service post office authorized by Canada Post.

TO's First PO and George Brown

This, I thought, was a cryptic and needlessly complicated way to retrieve a letter. Luckily for me, I enjoyed this kind of stuff. Now all I had to do was ask for a letter mailed via general delivery (or poste restante) under my name.

Almost regally, the door swung back on its hinges. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear violins soaring and trumpet fanfare. A bell hanging from a string tinkled its welcome. I boldly stated my name and purpose at the counter, but the lady behind it merely looked at me funnily and said, "Sorry, we don't do general delivery."


I asked again to make sure, and was subsequently directed to the office at 31 Adelaide, which did have general delivery service, but they didn't have my letter. From there, I was redirected to the one at 25 The Esplanade, still with no success.

I spent most of my trip home scratching my head. TO's First PO was supposed to be a "full-service" post office, after all. I guess that didn't include poste restante. I found that unfortunate--poste restante would be useful for any Torontonian looking to leave a letter for someone who didn't live in the city (or eccentric city-dwellers looking to complicate the process for their friends). Even today, the Internet doesn't stop people from the charms of snail mail, and a knowledge of where, or where not to mail general delivery could come in handy.

Unfortunately, I had to resort to the Internet, at least for now. A quick search for Canada Post's addressing guide for general delivery and a few phone calls eventually cleared things up. It turns out that my well-intentioned friend had been confused about Toronto's First PO being the "Station A" of Toronto, or the city's main post office. Most major cities have a primary post office, which is also the default location if one were to just write that city's name or "Main Post Office" on the front of the envelope.

It wasn't a failed adventure. I did visit a very pretty church, add to my vernacular, discover a piece of Toronto's history, and find out which post offices in Toronto do have general delivery service. As for how this story ends...well, the letter was eventually Returned to Sender (RTS), aka my embarrassed and apologetic friend, and I ended up just receiving it in person.

Failed General Delivery

Go figure.

The Ten General Delivery Post Offices in Toronto:

338 Keele St, Suite 1
25 The Esplanade
119 Spadina Ave
1117 Queen St W
772 Dovercourt Rd
27 St Clair Ave E
50 Charles St E
2384 Yonge St
704 Spadina Ave
31 Adelaide St E

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