The General Post Office was once located at 38-42 Adelaide St E (opposite Toronto St on the north side) in downtown Toronto.
The History of Toronto’s 8th Post Office
In 1869, the government began acquiring lots for the city’s 8th post office. It was Toronto’s first public building commissioned by the federal government. The property extended from Adelaide St E to Lombard St. It was a stunning piece of Second Empire-style architecture designed by Henry Langley. When looking north on Toronto St, the street once ended with a beautiful view of the former post office.
The Architecture of the General Post Office
Completed in 1874, the 3-storey structure was faced with Ohio sandstone, had corner pavilions and a Mansard roof. The imposing frontispiece featured three entrances, paired columns, and recessed windows with finely carved bearded man keystones.
A portico supported by columns and topped with the Royal coat of arms covered the central doorway. The lofty Mansard roof featured a large triangular pediment, an illuminated and framed clock and a 36 ft high central dome crowned with a curved pediment and flag pole. The pavilions featured richly ornamented dormers with cast-iron cresting and initially had entrances from Adelaide St E.
The double-height ground floor of the main building was for customers. Along with regular postal services, there were also bronze post office boxes and money-order and registered letter departments. The second and third floors were offices, including that of the Post Office Inspector and other officials.
The rear of the building, off of Lombard St, was one-storey. It was used for sorting letter mail and newspapers.
Through the Years
The post office departments moved out of the Adelaide St E building in 1921. However, it remained open for general post office business, known as the Adelaide Street Postal Station, until 1958. That same year, the beautiful building that brought some Parisian splendour to Toronto’s streets was demolished. All that was saved from the Toronto General Post Office was the Royal coat of arms.
The Site Today
The Mackenzie Building replaced the grand post office in 1960. Named after Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie, the glass and aluminum structures cost $13 million. They brought almost all the federal government departments in Toronto under one roof and included the post office.
Albert Jackson – Toronto’s First Black Letter Carrier
In 1857, Albert Calvin Jackson was born in Delaware. After his two eldest brothers had been sold into slavery and his father’s passing of grief, Albert’s mother Ann Maria and her seven remaining children escaped to Canada with the help of the Underground Railroad. They arrived in Toronto in 1858 when Albert was just a toddler. He grew up and was educated in the city.
On May 12, 1882, Mr Jackson was appointed to a letter carrier position. He was one of a few people of colour to be appointed a civil servant in 19th-century Canada. When Mr Jackson arrived for work, white postal workers refused to train him because of racial discrimination. His supervisor reassigned him to the job of indoor hall porter instead.
Toronto’s Black community rallied around Mr Jackson, arranging a public meeting and advocating for him. His appointment made headline news, and a fiery debate ensued. During this time, support also came from Prime Minister Sir John A Macdonald, who was courting Black voters. Sixteen days later, Mr Jackson began his training as a postman.
In 1883, Albert married Henrietta Elizabeth Jones. They had four sons together.
Mr Jackson picked up the mail for his delivery at the General Post Office on Adelaide St E. He worked there for 36 years until his passing in 1918. His final resting place is at the Toronto Necropolis.
In 2013, Albert Jackson Lane in the Harbord Village area was named in his honour. Mr Jackson, a trailblazer, lived and delivered the mail in the west-end neighbourhood. His family went on to own homes in the area.
In 2017, the City of Toronto paid tribute to Albert Jackson with a heritage plaque. His proud descendants attended the unveiling. The plaque is located on the south side of Lombard St, just east of Victoria St, on the former post office site. Behind the plaque, the Royal coat of arms that once adorned the post office is also installed.
In 2019, Canada Post honoured Mr Jackson with a commemorative postage stamp.
Did You Know?
- The 17th-century Colonnade de Perrault at the Louvre Museum in Paris, inspired Langley’s design of the 8th post office.
- In the 1890s, there were six daily mail deliveries to the business portion of the city, four in the thickly populated residential areas and two in the outside neighbourhoods.
- The Masonic Hall, once at 18-20 Toronto St, was torn down a few years after the General Post Office.
- Just 100 m south of where the General Post Office once stood is Toronto’s 7th Post Office at 10 Toronto St. Now a National Historic Site of Canada, the 7th post office was completed in 1853. It’s a 3-storey, Greek Revival-style building designed by architects Thomas Ridout and Frederic Cumberland.
- There are over 3,600 laneways in Toronto. Many of them are in the city’s downtown core and were once used to deliver coal and groceries. To help reduce response times for emergency responders, a police officer suggested naming the laneways.
General Post Office Photos
- Heritage Toronto (plaque)
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Feb 1, 1869, pg 2
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Apr 20, 1874, pg 4
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: May 25, 1882, pg 3
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jul 21, 1921, pg 6
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Apr 9, 1960, pg 4
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Dec 26, 2011, pg A14
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Feb 11, 2012, pg L14
- Landmarks of Toronto: Volume 1 by J Ross Robertson (1894), pgs 163-166
- Lost Toronto by William Dendy (1978), pgs 86-87
- CBC: Toronto’s first Black mailman honoured 135 years after he started on the job
- Find a Grave Memorial: Albert Calvin Whitley Jackson
- Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library, Library and Archives Canada, Canada Post, Lawrence Jackson & McCord Museum