The property still exudes the air of an old Ontario estate, but few people are aware of the international connections in Langdon Hall’s hundred-year history. Built in Canada by the son of an Englishman who inherited American wealth, the grand home was intended as a summertime contrast to life in New York, London and a château in the Loire Valley.
Eugene Langdon Wilks was born in 1855 in New York, the youngest of the seven children of Matthew Wilks and Eliza Astor Langdon. On his mother’s side, Wilks was a great grandson of the immensely wealthy fur trader and real estate magnate John Jacob Astor. In 1858, Matthew Wilks saw an advertisement in the New York papers for a Galt-area property, Cruickston Park. Wanting to spend at least part of each year in British territory, Wilks bought the estate intending to use it as a summer residence. Matthew Wilks added property to Cruickston Park over the years until it had grown to 1000 acres.
At age thirty-seven Eugene Langdon Wilks returned to Cruickston Park after attending school in England and working in Western Canada. He married Pauline Kingsmill, a great granddaughter of Galt’s founder, the Honourable William Dickson. In 1898, Langdon purchased twenty-nine acres at the northwest corner of the Cruickston property, as well as an adjoining parcel of 76 acres. Langdon and Pauline hired an architect to draw up plans for their new residence. Langdon Hall was designed along the lines of summer homes south of the border, employing the Federal Revival style that was de rigueur during the 1890’s. Intended mostly for summer use, the house was a spacious thirty-two rooms, totalling more than 25,000 square feet. Construction was finished by 1902.
The house was unquestionably American in taste, reflecting the ongoing social and business links between the Wilks and American society. Langdon and Pauline Wilks spent their summers at their Ontario estate and winters abroad. Sadly, within a few years, Pauline developed cancer. The couple went to Europe in search of a cure. There, Pauline was attended by a Swiss nurse, Marguerite Briquet, but in spite of the best medical attention available, Pauline died in 1914 leaving no children. In 1915, Langdon married Marguerite Briquet in France. They had three daughters, Catherine Claude, Anne Marguerite and Marion Lucille Langdon.
The family divided their time between New York City, their château near Tours, France and Langdon Hall. Eugene Langdon Wilks died in 1934 at his château near Tours. Just before the Second World War erupted, the French army commandeered the Tours château, so Marguerite and her three daughters returned to Canada and took up permanent residence at Langdon Hall. Only Catherine, the eldest, remained at Langdon Hall with her mother and her own daughter. Catherine later married Garth Thomson.
Marguerite Wilks died in 1961 and was buried in Galt. Her daughter Catherine inherited Langdon Hall. Catherine and Garth Thomson lived at Langdon Hall until 1980. They sold the mansion in 1982 with about thirty surrounding acres. With the sale of Langdon Hall, Wilks family ownership of these grand residences came to a close. In 1987, William Bennett and Mary Beaton purchased the property. William an architect, along with Mary, developed their dream of a country house hotel. Renovations took a year and a half to complete. The grounds once again would ring with the sounds of happiness and renewal. Langdon Hall Country House Hotel opened in 1989. Almost 30 years later, two expansions, and the most wonderful guests, Langdon Hall remains a special place to many who have found it a home away from home.
Part of the ambience of country house hotels is due to their British origins and thus their natural focus on gardens. From the outset, the transformation of Langdon Hall from a private residence into a luxury country house hotel as envisaged by its founders architect William Bennett and Mary Beaton, embraced the British tradition. There would be significant gardens at Langdon that combine restoration of earlier gardens and development of new landscapes. To compliment the English ambience that is alive inside Langdon Hall, much has been done to renovate the grounds and gardens to their original Victorian magnificence.
At Relais & Châteaux properties across North America we aspire to remind people what it truly means to experience the moment and the value of making time for what is important.