Preservation of Place
Featured on Southern Comfort bottles for 75 years, Woodland Plantation moves into the future through the work of Foster Creppel, whose family owns the Columns Hotel.
Whether or not you’ve ever visited Woodland Plantation — located about 40 miles south of New Orleans in West Point à La Hache — if you are a tippler you’ve likely seen it.
The circa-1834 main house was featured on the label of the whiskey-based liqueur Southern Comfort’s bottle from 1934 to 2009. Surrounded by 50 acres on the Mississippi, the plantation serves as a wedding and event venue, retreat and conference center (heavily utilized by fishermen), and bed and breakfast.
The plantation is also a nature and wildlife refuge of sorts, as the location of one of the oldest cypress trees in Louisiana (the Louisiana Cypress Legacy #4) and as a partner attraction via the America’s Wetland campaign to save coastal Louisiana. Jacques and Claire Creppel — owners of the Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue — along with their son, Foster, purchased the plantation, sight unseen, in 1997.
“The first time I saw it, I said, ‘Oh Mom, this is a terrible idea. Why did we buy this dump?’” says Foster Creppel, who now serves as the sole proprietor.
The family began extensive restoration of the main house — a red-roofed, 10-room mansion — in December 1997 and opened for business the following year.
They also acquired the deconsecrated, Gothic-style, circa-1833 St. Patrick’s Church, which was located 14 miles away in Homeplace, cut it in half, moved it to the property, renamed it Spirits Hall and opened it in 1998. Creppel says the first big wedding was held on the property that year.
Over the years, the plantation became home to Louisiana State University Ag House and the store from Magnolia Plantation. The Creppels have also restored the overseer’s house, “little house” and the old slave cabin.
Woodland Plantation was built by Capt. William Johnson, thought to be one of the first chief river pilots in America. Johnson operated the property as a sugarcane plantation, but continued his work on the river, which also included partnering with the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte in the slave trade. Foster Creppel doesn’t gloss over any aspect of the history of the plantation, which is all outlined on the plantation’s website and in the photo gallery in Spirits Hall.
While restoring and preserving the history of the property, he says he is passionate about doing the same with the coast.
“People said, ‘Who is going to want to come here?’” says Foster Creppel. “But I think if we keep restoring buildings like this and places like this, people will want to come here. We gotta restore our coast. Our wetlands and delta are going to take longer and cost more but just this place took longer and cost more and we did it. We can do it.”
Foster Creppel has increased production crops, such as bamboo, and planted more trees (20 Chinese chestnuts and 10 cypress) on the plantation. He also looks for other ways to farm the plantation, all while running what he calls a “small country inn.”
“I like meeting nice and interesting people,” says Foster Creppel. “We have wonderful food. I love to cook. I love to landscape design and hunt, fish and drink. I figure if I run a country inn, I can do all of that stuff.”