I was in Toronto for a library conference for the last few days (great, by the way) and made some time on my lunch break to whiz over to Toronto's First Post Office on February 1st to kick off Letter Month!
What a place, and what a perfect thing to do. I was able to write a postcard for my first letter of the month, and buy stamps right there -- could have sent it too, but didn't think of it! This is because the First Post Office is not only a historical site and museum, but is an operating Canada Post outlet as well. The postcard I sent had this vintage picture of the original building, an image found in the Toronto Public Library collections -- appropriate since I was in Toronto at a library conference, I thought.
It's such a neat place -- do pop over to their website and read about their history. The building was restored from ruin and is governed by the Town of York Historical Society. It includes a museum of postal history, with letters and pens and accoutrements, also including information on the politics of the 1837 Rebellion which had an enormous effect on the post office, including the dismissal of the postmaster James Scott Howard who was suspected of collaboration with rebels -- possibly because he refused to open the mail of suspected rebels?? It was a fascinating exhibit to examine. You could also test out your handwriting with a quill pen, so of course I did! My poor writing hand is suffering a bit right now from tendonitis so my handwriting is not quite as nice as I like it to be -- but it was still great fun, though the ink smudged a little, oops!
Of course I also picked up a variety of postcards, plus some really cute buttons (on the lower right) that are clearly made there -- and now I once again covet a button machine myself. They had some nice ones made with old stamps, but I had to stop myself somewhere! Their self-guided tour brochure was very interesting as well, and I'm glad I made time to wander around and view their location. There were also many intriguing local history and postal history books available but I couldn't buy everything so limited myself to the easily carry-able things below. I intend to go back next time I am in town.
Something interesting that I found out is that there is a Toronto PAL-SAC group that meets at the First Post Office monthly. Too bad their meeting was the week before I was there, or I would have dropped in! If you aren't familiar with PAL-SAC (the Post A Letter Social Activity Club) it's a great organization based in Toronto that is focused on setting up drop-in letter writing events in many different cities worldwide. There are 3 groups active in Toronto listed on their website, and many others too, ranging from Vancouver to Copenhagen! They have an old post on their website that shows people enjoying PAL-SAC at the Post Office -- great to get an idea of what the museum looks like with people using it :)
This was a great lunch-hour excursion, lots of fun, and a great kick off to Letter Month! So glad I discovered them on Facebook before I actually went to Toronto. Serendipity.