Touching a piece of history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 8, 2014

By David ViTrano

VACHERIE – St. Joseph Plantation has long stood in the shadow of its more well-known neighbor, Oak Alley, but recently the home has seen a resurgence of interest from both near and far.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” said the plantation’s marketing coordinator, Denise Borell.

The reason for the uptick lies just to the east of St. Joseph, where its sister plantation home, Felicity, sits in the shade of ancient oaks. Felicity and St. Joseph Plantation share the same owners.

Local movie buffs have long recognized Felicity as the setting for the 2005 Kate Hudson vehicle, “The Skeleton Key.” But a more recent movie filmed there has made the home the subject of countless passing photographs in the last few weeks. The Brad Pitt-produced “12 Years a Slave” was filmed there in 2012, and following the film’s Best Picture win at the Golden Globes, interest in the closed-to-the-public home has skyrocketed.

Among the visitors to the property have been television news crews from as far away as the United Kingdom. Additionally, Borell said individual visitors — and those hoping to sneak onto the property for a quick photo — have come from around the globe.

Paul Aucoin, president of the River Parishes Tourist Com mission, said the effects of this newfound popularity remain to be seen, but several high-profile film projects in the area have already cast more eyes on the River Parishes.

“All of our numbers are up across the board for all of our attractions,” said RPTC Executive Director Kimmie Carlos. “It’s been one of our best years.”

Jo Banner, who handles the marketing side of the commission, added that she is hoping to put together a movie-themed tour of the area to capitalize on all the interest.

But for the time being, all eyes are on Felicity, and Borell said she and those in charge of the property are trying to work out the details so visitors will be able to catch more than a fleeting glance of the property.

“It’s in the plans,” she said.

With the Oscars about three weeks away and “12 Years a Slave” up for nine awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, the interest is sure to only grow from here.

And although notoriety was not the true goal when Felicity signed on as the location for the film, at least some on the set had an inkling of the outcome.

“I think they knew they had something,” said Assistant Locations Manager John Collins. “We did something a little bit bigger than just making a movie here. We touched history.”