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Our History

The St. Francisville Inn

In 1880, wealthy Bayou Sarah entrepreneur named Morris Wolf constructed an elegant, Victorian home for his wife and children. Mr. Wolf was a partner with Julius Freyhan & Co., “suppliers of plantation goods as well as boots, buggies, and coffins.” The traditional home was grand in scale and detail. The fact it was even constructed just twenty-four years after the end of the civil war was quite an accomplishment in itself, given the challenging living conditions at the time. The Wolfs lived there until 1903, at which point it was sold to the Schlesinger family for $3,500. After changing hands a few more times, the property ended up being sold in 1954 to an investor who cut the home into apartments.

Eventually, the home fell vacant (shown above). After sitting empty for years, many of the property’s fine appointments had been stolen. All the fireplace mantles were gone, as were the light fixtures, most of the exterior doors and all but one ceiling medallion. The remaining ceiling medallion can be seen today in the Summer Parlor where guests check in for their rooms. It is quite the sight.

In 1984, an electrical engineer (Richard Filet) working on the nearby nuclear power plant construction project purchased the empty home along with his wife, who wanted to restore the home and turn it into a B&B. At the time, the two story addition in the back did not exist, so it was just the original home and the servants’ quarters, which are today rooms 1-4. The Filets restored the servants quarters and used them as guest rooms. They also restored the collapsed rear porch, ultimately enclosing it for use as a dining room.

The B&B performed well, and the Filets added a two story addition with six more rooms. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Filet sold The St. Francisville Inn to Laurie & Pat Walsh, who lived in New Orleans. The Walshes operated the inn for the better part of thirty years until they sold it in 2018 to Jim Johnston and Brandon Branch. At this point, the decision was made to take the property in a different direction with a ground-up renovation and the ultimate goal of offering five-star accommodations paired with an on-site restaurant and bar.

Several photographs are shown herein of wallcoverings, hinges, and other the overall condition of the home before it was restored by the Filet family.

On April 1, 2019, the new inn opened to the public. The St. Francisville Inn, which had always been a cornerstone in St. Francisville, breathed new life into the community, offering a new level of elegance and appeal never before enjoyed by the town. Within a year, the inn’s restaurant, The Saint, was voted one of the top one hundred restaurants in America.

During the inn’s renovation, Jim Johnston, one of the owners, gave a presentation to the town council. One of the questions asked was, “how many people to you anticipate employing?” Jim told the council, “this is never going to be a big inn. We will probably be capped off at around eight employees”. With the addition of the inn’s new spa, which opens in late 2023, the employment ranks will be closer to fifty, a slight mis-calculation on the original estimates.

The Royal

In 2023, Jim and Brandon had another idea – one of a super exclusive, super high-end B&B. It didn’t have to be big, just amazingly fabulous. All they had to do was find a suitable candidate. After months of looking, they were beginning to think they wouldn’t be able to find the right property. Then, out of the blue, their trusted realtor, Gaye Landry, called. The old “Barrow House” might be available for sale. The Barrow house had actually functioned as a B&B up until covid, at which point the older owner gave up on it. Best of all, it was also located in St. Francisville’s historic district, about a mile down the road from The St. Francisville Inn.

The Barrow House was a much more challenging property. First, it was a hundred years older than The St. Francisville Inn, making it almost two hundred and fifty years old. There was the also the issue of neglect. The home hadn’t had major (or minor) updates in decades. To Jim & Brandon, it was a blank slate in which to begin.

The Barrow House was actually two homes put together, the first (two story home) circa 1780 and the second (single story home) circa 1806. Combined, they were one of the crown jewels of the town, so residents were particularly eager for someone to save them, and even better, make them amazing again. 

After brief negotiations, the homes were acquired in March of 2023. Construction began in earnest the following June. After deciding how to divide up the private versus guest living quarters, the homes were carefully restored, with careful consideration to anything that could be re-used, Cypress and heart of pine floors were cleaned, but not sanded. Original, leaded glass window panes were kept in place. Discarded wood was re-used wherever possible. Unequal door frames and window casings were left uneven (“Character”, as Brandon calls it). When it came to new items, equal care was taken to find paints and finishes that were appropriate for the time. Gardens, once grand but now overgrown, were completely refurbished, keeping only plants native to Louisiana. Insane amounts of efficient irrigation were added to ensure the gardens’ futures. Brandon’s much coveted half submerged, yet original, greenhouse received a completely new lease on life. Guests are actually welcome to have breakfast or wine in the greenhouse. The original koi pond was restored, a second multi-tiered fountain was added, as were two sugar kettles full of water and lilies.

In the end, some fifteen-hundred plants were added, along with over a mile of buried cable for garden lighting, forty tons of top soil, and an equal amount of mulch. The result is a lush garden visible from all streets. Even the tired, neglected street front was renewed and lit.

By the end of October, it was time to re-open the new inn. In honor to its location, the inn was simply named “The Royal”. 

The Royal features a mere three guest guest rooms so that visitors can be pampered to no end. Few needs are left unattended to by the dedicated butler, who is equipped to handle anything from wrinkled clothes, cocktails and wine, transportation, scuffed shoes, snacks, reservations, and much more. Even doctors’ visits can be arranged when needed.

And, it’s hard to say which guest room is the favorite. One guest insists The Dahlia is her favorite, due to its English wallcovering and enormous dressing table and shower. Another argued it’s the Indigo room, pictured above). He couldn’t give a reason, but referenced the heated bidet several times in his own defense.
Dahlia’s oversized bath overlooking the koi pond definitely appeals to many. A guest was overheard saying to her husband, “this is my side of the shower, that’s yours over there.”

Based strictly on reservations though, Hollyhock seems to attract a few more guests than the other rooms. We’re not sure why, other than it’s very bright and opens up to the screened porches that wrap around two sides. And as always, fresh flowers are abound throughout the inn. 

Regardless of which room guests choose, the result always seems to be the same.

Guests appreciate the privacy, peace and quiet, and the insane attention to detail.

The Owners

Jim Johnston & Brandon Branch

Jim Johnston & Brandon Branch have a singular goal, which is to offer true five star lodging, dining, and entertainment. The reinvention of the St. Francisville Inn represents the seventh project for the duo. Each man brings a unique combination of skills that, together, have catapulted The Inn into a destination among both Southerners and Europeans alike.


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