For most of St. Albert’s history, if you wanted to get in contact with anyone outside of the community, you would have to write them a letter. And that meant a trip to the post office. Today, there are many more options available, but the city’s postal service still plays a vital role in the welfare of the community. The post office itself has seen many changes since it was founded, but over the last 137 years, it has remained devoted to connecting St. Albert’s citizens to their loved ones, both near and far. Here’s a look back at how it all began.
The first post office in St. Albert was established in 1880, by the same group of missionaries who first settled St. Albert 19 years prior. The post office was located within the clergy residences atop Mission Hill and was run by the church. In those days, if you wanted to check your mail, you would have to make your way to the post office to see if anything had arrived for you. This could be a long trek, especially for rural farmers.
In 1906, the St. Albert post office relocated to the Dawson Block, a commercial building that housed a variety of local businesses, including the town’s bank and drugstore. The post office would remain here for the next 22 years, until a fire destroyed the entire building. The responsibility of maintaining the town’s post office would be traded around to different businesses for the next 34 years.
Mail transportation has changed a lot over the last century, first being transported along rivers, then by train and, finally, by truck and plane. For a brief moment in time, however, St. Albert was home to a unique mail-delivery system that hasn’t been seen before or since. Beginning in the winter of 1910, St. Albert’s mail began to be delivered by moose-drawn carriage. The two postal moose, Pete and Nelly, were owned by W.R. “Buffalo Bill” Day, and they transported mail between the different communities of the region, going as far north as Wabasca and as far south as Edmonton.
In 1962, St. Albert’s post office finally got a permanent home on Perron Street where it still sits today. This new post office, along with St. Albert’s rising population, got the attention of Canada’s Postmaster General, John R. Nicholson, who instituted a set of directives to bring St. Albert’s postage system in line with the rest of the country. First of all, St. Albert was to institute door-to-door mail delivery and a letter-box system as soon as possible. Nicholson also insisted that St. Albert amalgamate with Edmonton for the ease of mail organization.
Door-to-door delivery and letter boxes were instituted in 1965, but after much outcry on the topic of amalgamation, Nicholson quietly withdrew his third directive.
In 1981, Canada Post transitioned from being a department of the federal government to being a Crown corporation. In theory, this move would allow Canada’s postal system more freedom to innovate and give them more control over their own finances. These top-level changes didn’t impact things on the local level in St. Albert until 1985, when community postboxes started replacing door-to-door delivery systems in newly built developments.
With the rise of the Internet, the postage system in St. Albert has slowed down somewhat, as fewer and fewer people are using the post as a form of long-distance communication. In 2013, Canada Post made the decision to phase out door-to-door delivery entirely, and in 2016, they were on the verge of closing down the Perron Street post office entirely. After much rallying from the community, the decision was overturned.
St. Albert’s postal system may not be used as much today as it has been in the past, but for the foreseeable future, it’s here to stay. t8n
The first postmaster of St. Albert was none other than Father Leduc. Since the post office was operated by the town’s oblate missionaries, this made the leader of the mission the de facto postmaster of the town.
St. Albert received an alternate designation in 1972 when Canada Post assigned the code “T8N” to the town in order to improve the efficiency of mail sorting and delivery.