The name's Bond. St. James-Bond.
According to Yonge and Eglinton area legend, Ian Fleming got the name for his hero from a church there while he was stationed at a nearby Air Force facility. There was, in fact, a St. James-Bond United Church, located at Willowbank Blvd and Avenue Road, which was a 1929 amalgamation of a church on Bond St., established in 1862, and another called St. James dating from 1878. The church closed in May 2005 and the congregation moved to Fairlawn Heights. It has since been torn down. The site will be home to a residential complex.
The Fleming rumour has a good probability quotient. Two things link Ian Fleming to Ontario, at least. First, William Stephenson (a Canadian war hero, aka The Man Known as Intrepid) is widely reported as the inspiration for the James Bond character. Second, Fleming underwent training with Intrepid at Camp X, on the shores of Lake Ontario near Oshawa. The remnants of Camp X now host Intrepid Park.
Meanwhile the church that, purportedly, had lent its name to the most epicurean spy known to modern fiction more than belied its fictional namesake before its demolition. Its sober dark red brick exterior was punctuated by a grey roof, and by grey cement on the cornice and jambs of the doorway as well as the edges of the windows. Two narrow, featureless stained glass windows flanked the entrance. Along the wall facing Willowbank, the three trefoil gothic style windows revealed no pattern within. The wood of the green side door was warped and cracked, its paint faded by the sun. Aside from the bowling lanes which the church once had in its basement, the only spark of liveliness was in the parking lot, with a sign there saying "You park, you preach! Reserved for the Minister 24 hours a day/7 days a week."
It's also hard to imagine the whole area was once a forest dotted with Huron villages. Apparently, residents still find artefacts dating from the 1500s popping up in their backyards.
Less venerable but nonetheless noteworthy is the oldest house in North Toronto: the Snyder Farmhouse at 744 Duplex Avenue, close to Lytton. It was built in 1829 as a Regency style one storey house, with a second storey added in the 1850s. Eventually, it ended up as a rooming house and deteriorated. The red-brick house with lovely yellow brick trim has been renovated extensively in recent years but the verandah is gone, though the portico is still the centerpiece of the façade with the balcony and French doors atop it. The Snyder Farmhouse is also the fourth oldest house still standing in the City of Toronto.
In terms of Canadian history, however, the most famous spot in the area is the site of Montgomery's Tavern. At the corner of Yonge and the street bearing its name, this was the headquarters of the failed 1837 rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie. The tavern was burned down in retaliation for the insurrection and Montgomery fled to the United States. He came back in 1849 after a general amnesty and built another tavern. That one burned down in 1881. The site was bought by John Oulcott, who decided to build a hotel out of brick. As befits the Canadian personality, this historic site is now the prosaic home of Postal Station K. From rebellion to stamps: a natural progression. The pigeons are very happy with the lion and the unicorn flanking the doorway, especially the horn of the unicorn, as it makes a very comfortable perch.
These are the kind of things you learn on historical walks. This particular one, covering the history of Yonge and Eglinton, was hosted by Heritage Toronto.
Despite its reputation as a singles paradise, "Yonge and Eligible" is populated with more families than anything. There aren't so many night clubs in the neighbourhood as there are restaurants and coffee shops – and, of course, trendy shops selling everything from closet organizers to pet fashions.
(c) 2005 Dominique Millette