Toronto’s First Post Office

Conservation / Preservation:


  • Primarily early nineteenth century letter-writing materials such as pens, penknives, quill cutters, inkwells, seals, pounce pots, a post master’s desk and a portable post master’s desk.
  • Artefacts pertaining to the history of the Bank of Upper Canada and the De La Salle Institute, buildings to which the 1833 post office was conjoined after 1873.
  • Nineteenth century currency from Upper and Lower Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and Spain.


The building itself has been restored to its original condition. The original fireplace has been uncovered and restored.

Archives and Library

  • Correspondence relating to the postal service in Upper Canada.
  • Several rare books relating to the early postal system in Upper Canada.
  • Documents relating to the Bank of Upper Canada and De La Salle Institute.
  • Research files on subsequent owners of the Post Office building, such as Christie Brown and Co..
  • Hundreds of letters by nineteenth-century Torontonians.

Public Programming:


  • The post office is decorated with furniture and accessories authentic to the period, and visitors can write letters using nineteenth-century paraphernalia.
  • The Post Office reading room houses permanent and changing exhibitions relating to the history of Toronto’s postal service.
  • Scale model of Toronto (York) in 1837, with an online legend that identifies significant landmarks.
  • Occasional traveling exhibits featuring items from the Post Office’s collection.

Public Lectures

  • Annual public lecture on Toronto history to coincide with the annual meeting of the Town of York Historical Society.
  • Occasional public lectures in conjunction with the work of other heritage organizations in Toronto.


  • Quarterly newsletter that updates members on developments in heritage preservation efforts in Toronto, particularly as regards the city’s built heritage, and events in the heritage community.

City of Toronto Archives



Government Records

The archives collects documents created by the City of Toronto government and by its predecessor municipalities that existed between 1792 and 1997, including records of councils, agencies, boards, and commissions.

Cities and towns included are the current City of Toronto 1998-Present, the former City of Toronto 1834-1997, East York 1924-1996, Etobicoke 1850-1997, North York 1922-1997, Scarborough 1850-1997, York 1792-1997, Brockton 1881-1888, East Toronto 1888-1909, Forest Hill 1924-1966, Leaside 1913-1966, Long Branch 1915-1966, Mimico 1911-1966, New Toronto 1913-1966,North Toronto 1889-1913, 1942, Parkdale 1879-1889, Swansea 1926-1966, Weston 1882-1966,West Toronto 1888-1910, Yorkville 1853-1883.

Non-Government Records

These records were created by a wide variety of groups and individuals, including interest groups, resident and ratepayers’ associations, clubs, social service groups, businesses, retired politicians and civil servants, artists, activists, families, and ordinary citizens. A complete list is available on the website.

Public Programming:


The archives has two exhibit spaces which features photographs and textual records from its collection. The smaller exhibit space highlights recent acquisitions, while the larger main-floor gallery explores changing themes, such as how immigrants in Toronto’s notorious slum “The Ward” were portrayed in the media, or the history of food production in Toronto. Main exhibits change annually and smaller ones change more frequently.


  • The archives’ descriptive database provides an online finding aid for its collection, and includes well over 10,000 digitized images of Toronto and its former municipalities, including photographs and maps.
  • Web Exhibits include such topics as, “The Earliest Known Photographs of Toronto”, “A Work in Progress: Preserving Toronto’s Architectural Heritage” and “An Infectious Idea: 125 Years of Public Health in Toronto”. The archives also has a Flickr account and a very active Twitter account.

Tours and educational programming

The archives’ educators provide curriculum-based programming for students in public and high school. For university or college students, they provide educational workshops on archival theory and practice using the archives’ collection, or on a specific research area which aim to provide students with the skills needed to conduct future research. Tours of the facilities are available to fit the visitors’ requirements.

Archives of Ontario



Ontario Government Records:

The majority of the records in the collections of the Archives were created by the government of Ontario and its predecessors in the fulfillment of its legal and administrative functions. These records date from the late eighteenth century to the present day concerning:

  • Political and legal decisions.
  • The evolution of provincial administration.
  • The interaction between the government and its citizens.
  • The rights and responsibilities of Ontarians.

Private Sector Records:

Since 1903, the Archives of Ontario has been acquiring records from the private sector. The Archives holds the records of over 2600 private individuals, businesses, clubs and associations, labour and political organizations. These collections can range in size from one or two items to thousands of items that occupy hundreds of metres of shelf space.

These records include:

  • Paper files, diaries and photographs.
  • Maps and architectural records.
  • Sound recordings and moving images.

Genealogical Records:

The Archives of Ontario holds many important sources for researching family history in Ontario. There is no single finding aid or database for this type of research.

Vital Statistics:

Historical registrations of births, marriages and deaths. No database yet exists that allows you to search these records by name. Rather, these records must be searched using microfilm.

Records Relating to Aboriginal Peoples:

The Archives of Ontario has a substantial number of records relating to aboriginal history, very widely scattered through the Archives’ total holdings. Dating from the 1760s, most focus on what is now Ontario. However, a reasonable number — for example, fur trade and missionary papers — refer to Aboriginal people of Quebec, other parts of Canada, and the United States


The J. J. Talman Library at the Archives of Ontario is a research and reference collection for the general public and the staff of the Archives. Most of the Library collections relate to the social, political, economic, cultural and military history of the Province of Ontario.

There are approximately 75,000 pieces including:

  • Books, pamphlets and Ontario Government publications.
  • Periodicals, microfilm, microfiche and other printed and published items.

Special Collections


The Archives of Ontario’s photographic collection consists of approximately 1.7 million images documenting activities, people, places and events in Ontario from the mid-1800s to the present.

These images come in many formats including: colour and black and white prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, slides, and glass plate negatives.

The Archives photographic holdings include images from many private sources such as: photojournalists, studio photographers, amateur photographers, and corporate collections.

The Archives’ photographic holdings also include images created by many Ontario government ministries and agencies to document programs and activities.

Photographs are accessed through the Reading Room.

Online Photographic Database:

A selection of images drawn from the holdings of the Archives of Ontario which document the province’s history and landscape. Images are continually being added to the database.

Cartographic Records:

The Cartographic Records Collection of the Archives of Ontario contains over 40,000 maps, plans, hydrographic charts, atlases, bird’s eye views, and other cartographic materials relating to the Province of Ontario. Many of these maps are in manuscript form and thus are unique items.

The Archives has significant collections of private cartographic records including those produced by or for: Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, Thomas Talbot, the Canada Company, and David Thompson.

The foundation of the collection consists of maps produced by and for the Government of Ontario, most notably the Ministry of Natural Resources and its predecessors. Maps in the collection span the period from the early eighteenth century, when Ontario was still part of New France, to the present.

The collection contains maps and plans documenting many aspects of the province’s history and development including:

  • Exploration maps, settlement maps and township and town surveys.
  • Road maps, fishing maps and boundary maps.
  • Electoral plans, fire insurance plans, and maps showing the location and distribution of various natural resources.

Architectural Records:

An extensive architectural records collection of approximately 200,000 drawings and other items, dating from the early 1820s to the 1990s. These records document Ontario’s built environment and heritage.

The collection consists of architectural materials created or accumulated for government purposes. An example would be the records of the Public Works Department, which was responsible for the construction of prisons, hospitals, special schools, and other facilities.

The Archives also holds architectural records created by individual architects or private sector firms. The scope of these records ranges from houses to factories to skyscrapers.

Documentary Art:

The Archives of Ontario holds a collection of approximately 4000 documentary art records that document the people, places and events in Ontario from the 1790s until the 1900s.

The collection contains paintings, drawings, and prints by both amateur and professional artists, such as: Caroline Armington, William Armstrong, Thomas Burrowes, Anne Langton, C. W. Jefferys, Stewart C. Shaw, Elizabeth Simcoe, Fred Brygden, Robert Sproule, Owen Staples, and Dorothy Stevens.

It covers a wide range of subjects such as views of small towns, famous and infamous people, and historical events.

Public Programming:


Several exhibitions that highlight the collections. The most recent online exhibits can be accessed directly from the website.

Mackenzie House



Nineteenth century furniture and household items, as well as printing shop artefacts including a printing press built in 1845.


The Mackenzie House is a nineteenth century home which was once part of a terrace of houses. The house was constructed with a Greek Revival style between 1855 and 1858.

Public Programming

Programming includes walking tours of the downtown core, historic cooking and printing workshops, and special programs such as Hogmanay, Robbie Burns, Doors Open and Nuit Blanche. Mackenzie House participates in city-wide programs such as Luminato, Pride Week/Month and Contact Photography Festival. The site often partners with outside community groups to present programming and exhibits such as Archives of Ontario, Ryerson University and the Downtown Yonge BIA.


A modern gallery space hosts changing exhibitions covering different historical themes, such as William Lyon Mackenzie’s life,  Christmas in Toronto, In the Footsteps of Black Victorians, The History of the Black Press, Contact Photography Festival photos, and Read All About It: The First World War as Front Page News.


Mackenzie House offers guided tours of the historic house and re-created print shop.

Educational Programming

Mackenzie House offers curriculum based education programs for elementary, intermediate and high school and specialized programs for University and College students. Each are designed to complement a particular grade school curriculum, including the Grade 7 Rebellion program, Mackenzie’s Toronto walking tour, Black Press and Green Fields of Canada: the Impact of the Potato Famine on the City of Toronto.


Osgoode Hall

Conservation / Preservation:


The Great Library in Osgoode Hall contains the largest private collection of legal works and is one of the the best reference sources in Canada. The Archives is the repository for all records of permanent value to the Law Society of Upper Canada and collects materials that document the history of the legal profession in Ontario. The Law Society owns a significant collection of portraits of former Chief Justices and Presidents of the Law Society. It also collects artefacts related to the history of the legal profession in Canada.


  • Courtrooms  from the 19th century
  •  Convocation Hall
  • Stained  glass windows covering 4,000 years of law
  • The  Great Library
  • Paintings of former Chief Justices of the Province and Presidents of the Law Society
  • Sculptures
  • Artefacts documenting the history of the legal profession in Ontario

Public Programming:


  • McMurtry Art Exhibit
  • Heritage  courtrooms
  • Convocation  Hall
  • The  Great Library
  • Lecture halls, classrooms, meeting rooms
  • Temporary exhibitions on heritage topics
  • Virtual museum
  • Virtual archives
  • Flickr Photostream
  • YouTube Channel

Tours: Yes

Ontario Legislative Buildings

Conservation / Preservation:

Archives / Library

The Ontario Legislative library is mandated to provide research and information services to Members and staff of the Ontario Legislature, caucuses, and staff of the Legislative Assembly.


Statutes, government publications.

Public Programming:


  • Legislative and Community Exhibits
  • Permanent exhibits highlighting the history and architecture of the Legislative Building, Ontario’s natural heritage, and the Legislative process
  • History and significance of the parliamentary tradition of the Mace.


  • School tours
  • ESL and French language tours for the general public
  • Scavenger Hunt at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
  • Art and architecture tours
  • Tour for scouting and guiding groups
  • Victorian Tea and Tour
  • View parliament sessions and exploring chamber

Old City Hall



  • Clock tower, first floor exhibits, grand staircase, memorial window, and war memorial
  • George A. Reid Murals, city council chamber; Romanesque grotesques, collection of photographs and other artefacts; stained-glass windows

Public Programming:


Exhibit cabinets are found on the main floor of the entrance lobby.



Ports Toronto



  • Harbour Trust, Harbour Commission and Port Authority board minutes and correspondence
  • Legal and financial papers
  • Central registry files
  • Departmental records
  • Textual records
  • Over 20,000 photos, plans, books and reports
  • Original documentation dates back to the creation of the Toronto Harbour Trust in the 1850s
  • Duplicated documentation dates back to the early 1830s, such as engineer drawings

Public Programming:


Display cases are located on the ground floor of the Ports Toronto building, and consist of images of Toronto and Toronto’s waterfront. Occasionally archival material is on display in the lobby of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The Ports Toronto Archives also participates in publicity events such as Doors Open Toronto, and also regularly supplies images for online use on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Archival material has also been used for Public Affairs displays created for public viewing in places such as BCE Place, the CN Tower and the PATH system.