“I’m not saying this is the ‘Get Out’ house. I’m just saying, if it was … this would be a good place to put it,” my husband remarked on the road to Charlotte Teresa Plantation in Atkins.
Between the isolated gravel roads leading us to our destination and the relative lack of information about the bed and breakfast online, we were feeling a bit jumpy. In light of the fact that the Charlotte Teresa Plantation is not, in fact, a historical plantation, but a relatively new orchard and farmhouse inspired by a plantation house, I’m still trying to figure out if the “Get Out” film reference was more or less apropos. Regardless, the similarities to horror movies ended there and we had a lovely time.
Inspired by the historic Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, La., where an enslaved gardener named Antoine first successfully grafted pecan trees, owners Charlotte and Billy Wilchman planted a 300-acre pecan orchard and modeled the outside of their B&B after Oak Alley. I’m not so sure Antoine (his last name isn’t known) would appreciate his homage being in the form of his owner’s home, but there it is. The pecan orchard itself, on the other hand, is a fine tribute: The Wilchmans use grafting techniques that Antoine pioneered.
The Charlotte Teresa house (as in Charlotte Teresa Wilchman) features the signature high ceilings, large windows and doors, dormers and Doric columns signature to the Greek Revival architectural style of antebellum Southern plantation homes, including the classic wrap-around porches complete with rocking chairs. Billy Wilchman has added his own piece of nostalgia to the picture in the form of a red vintage Ford pickup truck parked out front.
Inside, the design shifts to a more contemporary style. It ticks all the boxes of the popular modern-farmhouse aesthetic: open-concept kitchen and living area, crown molding, lots of natural light and pleasantly light colors, and faux-hardwood floors made from a more practical tile better suited to lots of foot traffic. Outside the back door is a picturesque patio with lights strung up and a fire pit. Five guest rooms are situated up the spiral staircase on the second floor. An open common area on the second floor has a small coffee bar and a large TV with couches and chairs for groups of guests. Each room has its own TV and faux fireplace for the introverts who prefer to relax in their own rooms. Charlotte Wilchman is an avid quilter, and one room of the house is devoted to her quilting studio.
The Wilchmans’ pecan orchard is 14 years old; they built the home in 2017. New-house smell still clings to the premises, and by definition the fresh construction lacks the history and accompanying sense of character that comes with truly old homes. That’s a good thing: As something of a blank canvas, Charlotte Teresa, which is gaining popularity as a photo-op and event destination, is a place that party planners can define. We thankfully missed the prom crowd scheduled to come take photos the next day — the Wilchmans did not charge in the past for prom-goers looking for a nice photo backdrop, but they had to start charging a minimal fee in the face of the damage that hordes of hyped-up teenagers inevitably do to the premises. As word gets around, the B&B is gaining popularity for weddings, too.
The pecan orchard may be relatively young, but it bears fruit and even in the off seasons would make for beautiful walking grounds if you’re of a mind to take the air. We stayed on a rainy weekend, which prevented much exploration, but we enjoyed front porch sittin’, sweet tea drinkin’ and watching the sun set behind Petit Jean Mountain. The B&B’s proximity to Petit Jean and other state parks makes it a great springboard for an outdoorsy weekend.
While the house may still be building its character, the Wilchmans take up the slack with their salt-of-the-earth vibe, openness and hospitality. Grizzly, good-natured Billy and warm Charlotte put guests at ease and are happy to shoot the breeze. You’ll get a chance to chat over a classic country breakfast of fried eggs, bacon and biscuits n’ gravy, just like Grandma used to make.
The Wilchmans have lots of life experience from which to draw interesting conversation. In addition to their military and medical careers, they used to raise chickens and cows. The pecan orchard is their retirement endeavor. Apparently, for the couple at least, running a working pecan farm, plus growing muscadines and keeping bees, acting as event hosts, and running the B&B side of it all by themselves counts as a relaxing break from their former pace. Before the Wilchmans bought the property, the farm was being used by the community as an unofficial dump for trash, ranging from the everyday to broken-down combines and other derelict farm equipment. Hearing about how they made something beautiful out of it and chatting about their plans for the future is heartwarming and left me, for one, feeling encouraged and refreshed.
If you don’t find yourself in Pope County in the near future, get a small taste of the B&B by heading to the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market in Little Rock next pecan season. Billy sets up shop there on the weekends to sell the pecans from Charlotte Teresa; he calls himself Paw Paw and his business Paw Paw’s Pecans.