George Taylor Denison, John Denison’s eldest son, was born in England in 1783 and arrived at York in 1796, with his parents and two brothers. He inherited the bulk of the family property and also added to his landholdings throughout his lifetime, acquiring much of his property through his four marriages. At the end of his life, he held 556 acres in Toronto and was one of wealthiest persons in Upper Canada.
George purchased park lot 17 and the eastern half of park lot 18, in 1815, from Elizabeth Russell (156 acres), an estate that ran from Queen to Bloor. The east and west boundaries were approximately at Augusta and Lippincott. Here he built Bellevue, a solid Georgian home, on the south side of Russell Creek, and established a large farm, complete with an orchard. Bellevue stood at the head of a half mile long shady carriage drive leading to Lot Street (Queen St.). This lane became the present Denison Avenue.
In December 1806, George married Esther Borden Lippincott, the only child of’ Captain Richard Lippincott, a wealthy United Empire Loyalist who owned three thousand acres in the Richmond Hill area. Esther and George had four children: Richard Denison, who went on to build Dover Court; George Taylor Denison II, owner of Rusholme; Mary Elizabeth, who married John Taylor; and Robert Denison. Following Esther’s death in 1823, he married his cousin, Maria Taylor (1827). She died a short four years later. His third wife, Elizabeth Caldwell Todd, died in 1849. A fourth, Maria Priscilla Coates, survived her husband, dying in 1887.
George Denison, like many of the other Denisons, was a military man and loyal to the British Empire. He served with the militia in 1812, beginning a lifelong affiliation with Upper Canada’s military. From 1822 to 1837, Denison organized and led a voluntary cavalry troop, mostly at his own expense, which he commanded during the Rebellion of 1837. The troop later became the Governor General’s Horse Guards, the first eight commanding officers of which were Denisons. In 1846, George took command of the 4th Battalion of Toronto militia. He held this post until his death in 1853.
Robert, the third son, inherited Bellevue. He, too, was a military man, becoming colonel of the Queen’s Own Rifles. Most of the Bellevue estate was subdivided during his tenure in the 1850s. He sold the house in 1889, which was demolished in 1890. By 1894, the area that had once been the Bellevue estate was a heavily populated district. Change continued in the twentieth century as waves of immigrants arrived from Europe and Asia. Kensington Market arose to serve the new people. He gave the land and financed the erection of St. Stephen’s-in-the-Field.
Denison street names abound in the area: Denison Square, Denison Avenue, Bellevue Avenue, and Major, Robert, Borden, and Lippincott Streets.
For further reading about the great houses of early Toronto, “The Estates of Old Toronto” by Liz Lundell, is recommended