Hooked on History

2012 April 5
by Hetty

Enjoy this story written by Peter MacLellan about Leslie Langille, one of the Moose River Rug Hooking Studio partners.

Hooked on History
by Peter MacLellan

Maybe it was because it was the cusp of the Christmas season but the first word to come to mind in describing his mischievous grin was “elfin”.

Leslie Langille is a genial host and engaging raconteur.

We’re seated in a couple of comfortable armchairs in the colourful confines of the artisanal studio that’s just a stone’s throw from his beautifully restored historic home – and almost abutting his antique shop – in Clementsport, Annapolis County. (You can visit it for yourself at www.mooseriverstudio.com).

I’ve come to find out what led this Lunenburg County native across the boreal backbone of our province to our area, where he’s become renowned and respected for his hospitality management entrepreneurship, material culture expertise and architectural restoration skills.

But first I’ve just got to know what possessed Leslie and his partners – Hetty van Gurp, Ward Carson and Blaine Allaby – to set up this impressive rug hooking studio on this bucolic bend in the road along the Annapolis Basin.

“It was originally Hetty’s idea”, Langille allows, adding,”But we all felt that the need for the studio was definitely there, and my personal instinct was to go for it.”

And Leslie Langille is a man who follows his enthusiasms.

He didn’t start his livelihood that way though. Like many earnest South Shore lads he felt he should pursue a responsible, sensible vocation – so he embarked on a career in banking. But the fit wasn’t there.

“I loathed it”, he says candidly.

What he soon realized he loved was exploring, collecting and working with Nova Scotia’s historic material culture. So he started working in the antiques business in Mahone Bay and restoring a nearby historic home.

“I knew then that this was what I wanted to do”, Langille exudes.

He bought and restored Lunenburg’s venerable Boscawen Inn, as well as the Ashley House, operating both until selling them in 1988 and 1989 respectively.

As a condition of the sales he had to agree to a five year non competitive clause within a certain radius of the area, so he moved to Annapolis County, planning just to stay for a short period.

“For the five years – max”, he recalls, “I planned to go back to the South Shore”

But then Leslie Langille, like so many who move to the Annapolis Digby area, found he wasn’t about to leave – ever.

“I immediately loved it here”, he says, “There’s gentility to both the land and the people – I just love the people.”

He purchased the Queen Anne Inn in Annapolis Royal in 1988, and then it’s St. George street neighbor, the Hiillsdale House Inn in 1993. He left the local hospitality business in 2002, but he remembers that period of his career wistfully.

“I loved those houses”, unnecessarily hastening to explain, “My passion is houses”.

And that’s further obvious in the beautiful restoration work he has subsequently done with homes he has purchased and sold in Granville Ferry and Upper Granville, and in his current Clementsport home.

He admits his passion for period buildings, and their restoration, is a labour of love and not a guaranteed business initiative.

“It’s not been a profitable passion”, he confesses, “But it’s brought me great satisfaction”.

And he’s not finished yet.

He acknowledges that he needs to be busy and that he’s “Already casting my eye around for another project”.

How does he decide? Langille infers that it’s often whimsical, waving his hand about the building in which we sit. “I saw this building for sale, liked it and immediately thought ‘what can one do with it’ – and here we are”.

He seems to have an internal bias for action in that regard, defining his occasional feeling inner debate in personal terms as “If you’re not going to do something about it – shut up about it”.

Somehow you just know there’s definitely more to come – that Leslie Langille will continue to contribute to the cultural fabric of Annapolis Digby.

You can sense it in his relentlessly restless nature as he continually bounds from his chair to greet visitors and customers, and to mingle  with the group of “hookers” who have come to spend the morning at the studio (by the way he’s an acclaimed and accomplished rug hooker himself).

Sitting down – or standing still is not in his nature, and that’s a good thing for an area that’s benefited from this man’s energy and vision.

Besides, he’s fun to “hang” with too – a witty conversationalist with an inexhaustible supply of anecdotes and encyclopedic background.

And as the guy who said he made the decision to stay here in large part because he “just loved the people”, moves around the room charming his visitors you can see that the fondness is reciprocal.

There’s a genuine connection – but that elfin grin doesn’t hurt either.


One Response leave one →
  1. September 14, 2013

    I met Leslie Langille today (Friday September 13, 2013). Walking into his antique shop left me speechless. First, I fell in love with the building and then the quality of the pieces he lovingly displayed. The church has had a rebirth with its architecture adorned and preserved. The carefully chosen pieces told the story of Nova Scotia’s history and places on distant shores. I wanted to stay longer, but needed to return to my bed and breakfast in Digby.

    In your write-up about Leslie Langille, he states, “I have a passion with houses”. The words were about himself, but it also described my life. We have restored a 1901 brick farm house, an 1860 original log house, and our present 1853 Georgian home in Digby. The local people still refer to it as the Ganong House. The house was in the same family from 1853 to 2000. We are the only non-family members to live in the house.

    Betty Cook.

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