John Denison was the head of a large family of Toronto landholders and military men, who had considerable influence for over a century, from 1797 until the death in 1925 of George Taylor Denison III, his great grandson. John Denison was born in Yorkshire, in 1755. He was a captain of the militia, a miller, and a brewer. In December 1782, he married Sophia Taylor, Sophia and Russell’s sister Elizabeth were childhood friends.
On the inducement of Peter Russell, the Denisons came to Canada, settling first in Kingston and finally in Toronto. For several years he was manger of Russell’s farm Petersfield, which prospered under his care. Over the years, Denison received several grants and began to accumulate property, including the park lot immediately west of Petersfield. He also purchased property overlooking the Humber River which the family named Black Creek Farm. In 1815, he bought park lot 25 and built Brookfield House, at the north-west corner of modern Queen and Ossington. Enormous willows cast shadows across the fine lawns and gardens. Although John Denison died in October 1824, his widow lived on at Brookfield for many years. Most of his property was inherited by their eldest son, George Taylor Denison, with the exception. of the house. In 1845, Sophia had transferred Brookfield House and four acres surrounding it to her son-in-law, John Fennings Taylor.
After the Lunatic Asylum was constructed on the south side of Queen in 1846, the area around Brookfield House deteriorated. The house was demolished, and smallish lots were sold. Ossington Avenue received its name from the family seat of Ossington House in Nottinghamshire.
For more about Brookfield and John Denison, see “The Estates of Old Toronto” by Liz Lundell.