Why Landmarking the Twig and Leaf has Nothing to Do with Food
Built in the early 1960s, the Twig and Leaf Restaurant has for generations been a familiar feature of the Bardstown Road/Douglass Boulevard intersection, commonly referred to as “Douglass Loop.” The building’s unique location, juxtaposed among the various architectural styles of the area, showcases the simplistic details and craftsmanship of the period. The Twig and Leaf restaurant is a symbol of continuity and cultural heritage, a valued, iconic structure and, in my opinion, worthy of an Individual Landmark designation.
The vernacular architecture (built without the intervention of architects) of the Twig and Leaf restaurant is influenced by the midcentury modern design aesthetic and represents one of the most dynamic periods of structural innovation in U.S. history, stemming from an abundance of new materials and technologies available after the second World War. Recognized as a significant design movement circa 1933-1965, midcentury modern architecture emphasized vertical and horizontal lines with ample windows and open floor plans, blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. Its focus centered on simplistic detailing using various materials such as glass, metal and concrete and was less formal and vastly different from the ornate architecture of previous eras. Architects and designers of this period valued function as much as form and this philosophy was executed best in the designs of commercial architecture.
The Twig and Leaf restaurant’s large, glass windows, often referred to as a “glass curtain,” allow natural light to flow into the space and the interior of the structure to be displayed and viewed from the outside. This feature mingles both interior and exterior spaces and is typically the most prominent design aesthetic of this style of commercial architecture.
Likewise, the building’s low horizontal roof line and wide overhanging eaves sharply contrast with its vertical walls, constructed of glass, aluminum and concrete block. This feature allows the shape of the structure to become a primary detail and eliminates the need for unnecessary ornamentation. The eaves, constructed of corrugated metal, add further visual interest to the overall composition and function as a protective awning. This feature, unlike the fabric awnings of previous architectural periods, allows the interior and exterior views to remain unobstructed while shielding the structure from sunlight and rain.
The landscape planter located along the front of the structure serves as a bulkhead, establishing the relationship of the building to the ground, helping to facilitate the indoor-outdoor connection. Created from mnn(a long and narrow brick typically favored for its exaggerated horizontal dimension), this feature adds visual texture to the overall feel of the structure, allowing natural elements essential to midcentury modern design to be integrated into the space for more than purely decorative purposes.
At night, the architectural style of the Twig and Leaf restaurant becomes even more noteworthy as its cornice is prominently outlined in pinkish-red neon. Sometimes referred to as “The Light of the American Dream,” neon was introduced to America in the 1920s. Revered for its vibrant, colorful glow in both day and nighttime settings, it was first used in advertising and quickly became a staple of American culture. Architects and designers often used neon to accent the form of a structure, enhancing its design and visibility from far away. Neon was most commonly used in post signs and marquees, and in the 1950s became somewhat of a calling card for diners and drive-in movie theaters. The beloved “Twig and Leaf: Tops in Food” sign is a prime example of this trend and is typical of how post signs were used in suburbanized settings to capture the attention of motorists.
The location of the Twig and Leaf restaurant and the visual composition it shares with the structures located at the Douglass Loop further support it deserving designation as an Individual Landmark. The way we perceive the physical presence of a building influences our emotional connections to an area and usually begins with the way a structure looks. Corner structures have a particularly iconic value in America and make a visual statement about the importance of a community, symbolizing the social attitudes and quality of life experienced in an area. For generations, the Twig and Leaf restaurant has served as a common meeting place for people from all walks of life. Its long history as a destination and a sense of place adds value and meaning to the cultural identity of the area and is a significant part of its heritage.
Municipalities all around the world enact landmark preservation laws to justify the protection of structures or other important markers that have historical, architectural or cultural meaning. These types of designations reflect the values and attitudes toward preservation in communities and demonstrate an area’s pride and respect for its heritage.
Unfortunately, critics often misconstrue designation policies as restrictive measures that infringe upon the property rights of owners and inhibit the progress of development. In reality, however, a designation provides beneficial resources to property owners and seeks to ensure their investment will maintain its character and value over time.
Furthermore, a designation increases an area’s economic productivity, promoting both tourism and independent commercial development. It supports sustainable building practices and contributes to the historical value of an area.
Most importantly, a designation is an effective means of encouraging residents and property owners to take an active role in preserving what is foremost in their communities, influencing the stability and development of an area for generations to come.
On Thursday, March 17, at the old jail building, corner of Sixth and Liberty, the Louisville Landmarks Commission will vote on designating the Twig and Leaf restaurant as an Individual Landmark. I will be there supporting the nomination. I hope to see you there, too.
For more information, call (502) 451-1436.
– Shellie Nitsche, 40205
I read The Highlander nearly every month, picking it up at Buffalo Wild Wings on my first visit there of the month. I wanted to comment on two stories from this month’s issue.
The first advice is for Mack Dryden. I would suggest that gluing yourself with Super Glue is one of the times that you should let your wife know of your mishap; her acetone nail polish remover will dissolve the glue.
I also noticed that Paul McDonald’s column featured a line that was supposedly quoted from a comic. I would guess that an editor found the accompanying comic, as it was included. However, the quote was inaccurate, though the sentiment was similar. Please, next time be careful to only use quotation marks for direct quotes. I applaud the editor for finding the comic, but the quote should have been fixed in the column.
– John Ostrum, Cherokee Triangle
EDITOR’S NOTE: Guilty as charged! The misquoted text got past us and we apologize for the confusion. We appreciate the helpful feedback; it keeps us all on our toes.
CORRECTION: We mistakenly listed in our February calendar the Douglass Community Center’s Coffee Talk Book Club as the “Coffee Table Book Club” and stated that the club was for people with mental and physical disabilities. Actually, the book club is open to anyone who is interested. The group meets every Tuesday (see March calendar listing).