The York Post Office became Toronto’s first in 1834, built in 1833 by James Scott Howard who was the postmaster of York, which served as a post office until 1839. It is the oldest ‘purpose-built’ post office in Canada which served as a department of the British Royal Mail. Howard had purchased the plot of land from the Bank of Upper Canada, thus creating a financial centre for a city with 9,000 people.
Postmaster Howard was caught up in the politics of the Rebellion of 1837 and framed as an aid to the rebels and unfairly dismissed from the bank’s directorship without formal charges. His position was given to Charles Albert Berczy, who resided in the post office until 1839 until Berczy relocated operations to Front Street west of Yonge.
Howard had moved his family north to a farmstead in 1835 and rented the building to various tenants until he was able to sell it in 1841 when it became the home of hardware merchant, Thomas Denne Harris. In 1873 Harris sold the building to the Christian brothers, who ran a school out of the old bank building (which had failed in 1866). During the passing of a century, the neighbourhood changed from residential to commercial and industrial and the building changed hands many times. A fire on June 30, 1978 seriously damaged the building, leaving it roofless. Rescued by private owners, it was lovingly restored and in December of 1983 was reopened as Toronto’s First Post Office under the direction of the Town of York Historical Society.
Today the building has a museum and a full-service post office run by the town of York Historical Society, and is located at 260 Adelaide Street East, one block north of King and one and a half blocks east of Jarvis. In the museum is a scale model of Toronto in 1837 as it was in Upper Canada. Visitors are provided with the opportunity to write letters with a quill pen and seal them with wax as was done in the 1830s. The style is in the late Georgian architecture.