Response to Councilman Owen’s Public Statement Regarding the Twig and Leaf Landmark Designation Proposal
While we respect Councilman Owen’s personal opinion on the proposed landmark designation of the Twig and Leaf restaurant property, we believe that his public statement misconstrues the intentions of landmarking and the architectural significance of the Twig and Leaf restaurant property.
As advocates for the landmark designation, we feel a responsibility to promote our position with accurate information and to respond to statements that may mislead or confuse the public. We do so with the utmost regard for Councilman Owen and appreciate the opportunity to state our responses as follows.
Councilman Owen’s Statement 1: The Local Historic Landmark designation should be reserved for the most iconic historical structures, sometimes even without much reference to context. I think it likely that a well-publicized, thoroughly explained study of midcentury modern vernacular roadside architecture along say U. S. Highway 31 E in Jefferson County could gain support.
Our response: The Landmarks Commission staff recommends the Twig and Leaf restaurant property be designated as an Individual Landmark based upon its eligibility when referenced to a set of designation criteria adopted by Metro Council and outlined in section 32.260 of the Louisville Metro Code of Ordinances. A structure need only meet one of the nine criteria to merit a landmark designation and the Twig and Leaf restaurant property meets six.
A well-publicized context of 31E was written for the National Trust of Historic Places conference held in Louisville in 2004. “Roadside Architecture of Kentucky’s Dixie Highways: A Tour Down Routes 31E and 31W” features attractions that have made Kentucky famous and was used in conjunction with a National Trust bus tour which featured the Twig and Leaf restaurant among the highlights for the standing-room-only tour designed for roadside architecture aficionados.
Councilman Owen’s Statement 2: I do not support rigidly constraining the future development of that Douglass Boulevard and Bardstown Road intersection to the existing scale and massing of the Twig and Leaf structure. Please remember future development of the site is protected by the traditional neighborhood commercial values promulgated thru [sic] the Bardstown Road Overlay District.
Our response: The future development of the Douglass Loop intersection is already “constrained” to the existing scale and massing of the Twig and Leaf structure. According to the Bardstown Road Overlay District Principles and Guidelines, Ordinance No. 69 Series, 2009, “The design of new or substantially remodeled structures which are adjacent to Contributing Historic Structures should be compatible with them and should incorporate similar design details or references where appropriate.” The landmark designation would only apply to the Twig and Leaf restaurant property and would not impose additional constraints on the future development of the area.
It is irrelevant whether the site would be protected by the Overlay District. A landmark designation is not based upon a structure’s location in the District and this line of thinking would preclude any building in the District from being landmarked.
Councilman Owen’s Statement 3: To my knowledge, the Twig and Leaf building, which is barely 50 years old, is the first midcentury modern structure to be nominated as a local landmark. I’m not sure it is the best candidate for this path-breaking designation.
Our response: According to the Louisville Metro Code of Ordinances, section 32.260, “The Commission may designate a structure or property as a local landmark if it receives ... a petition requesting a designation containing the verified signatures and addresses of no fewer than 200 residents of Louisville Metro.” With over 500 signatures submitted, the residents of Louisville, including Councilman Owen’s constituents, have requested that the Twig and Leaf restaurant property be designated as an Individual Landmark. It is of no consequence whether it is the first or the 50th midcentury modern structure to be nominated.
Councilman Owen’s Statement 4: Frankly, as a trained historian schooled in 19th and early 20th century documents, it is difficult personally to grapple with the notion that a building built when I was 22 years of age should be a historic landmark.
Our response: The age of a historian has nothing to do with a building’s eligibility to become an Individual Landmark and is not considered a part of the designation criteria adopted by Metro Council and outlined in the Louisville Metro Code of Ordinances.
Councilman Owen’s Statement 5: Clearly, my search for a reasoned and balanced view on this designation has educated me further in the architectural values of midcentury modern architecture. I have come to appreciate more the horizontal profile and highlighting, including neon, of this genre as well as the picture windows interacting with the street. In our decade, I believe significant education of our citizens must occur in this appreciation to assure that a declining inventory of these structures is preserved as representative of an earlier time. Simply put, I believe we’re just not there yet to support a local landmark designation.
Our response: Designating the Twig and Leaf restaurant property as an Individual Landmark is an important step in educating the public on this under-appreciated architectural genre. While Councilman Owen may not be there yet, preservation groups, neighborhood associations, independent business owners, Louisville residents and, most importantly, the Landmarks Commission staff, all agree that we are there.
Councilman Owen’s Statement 6: A few final comments: My views were shaped by multiple visits to the site, several readings of the designation report and a meeting with Landmarks staff.
Our response: The November 29, 2010 Landmarks Commission hearing was continued to allow additional information to be added to the designation report. To date, no new information has been added. The Landmarks staff recommends the Twig and Leaf restaurant property be designated an Individual Landmark.
A new hearing has been scheduled for April 21, 2011, 5:30 p.m., at the old jail building, corner of Sixth and Liberty streets.
– Anna Maas, Architectural Historian
– Rachel Kennedy, Architectural Historian
– Shellie Nitsche, PR Coordinator
In Support of Property Rights
The March issue of The Highlander featured the cover story of the Twig and Leaf restaurant and the pernicious attempt by Shellie Nitsche and her two cohorts, Rachel Kennedy and Anna Maas, to deny the owners of the property, the E. Sloane Graff Trust and PNC Bank, their property rights. The Highlander article misinforms its readers that “It turned out that the only naysayers were the property owners.” I write to correctly inform that I, and all freedom loving citizens, object to this attempt to rob the rightful owners of their property rights, and by accretion, to consequently put all property rights in increased jeopardy.
It should come as no surprise that Ms. Nitsche feels a sense of entitlement to other people’s property. Back in late 2009, Ms. Nitsche attempted to deprive a neighbor, Mr. William Van Cleave, of his property right to develop his property at 2116 Edgehill Road, as documented in The Highlander. Her arguments at the time included warnings of dire consequences such as “a change in the neighborhood” and to “protect the integrity of the property and limit development.” She resorted to a classic ad hominem attack on Mr. Van Cleave. With an equal absence of justification, the tactics have not changed with regard to the Twig and Leaf, this time with Ms. Kennedy bewailing the fact that the owners have hired a lawyer of “magnitude,” Mr. Glenn A. Price Jr., of the Frost Brown Todd Law Firm. She is bewildered that the owners would do such a thing. It is apparently beyond the comprehension of these three that the illegitimate meddling of busybodies such as these requires a robust and resolute response.
The vacuity of Ms. Nitsche’s kitchen-sink generic architectural description of the building, or rather non-architectural, since it is vernacular architecture, is stunningly irrelevant and pedantic, and there was nothing noteworthy enough in it to make Twig and Leaf even remotely unique. When she strays into claiming that this preservation would promote both tourism and independent commercial development she crosses the line from inanity to insulting the intelligence of the reader. In fact, if the lot was vacant and the owner proposed building this identical structure, I have no doubt that Ms. Nitsche would be first in line to protest that it was not simpatico with the neighborhood’s “cultural identity.” It wouldn’t matter if it were the Taj Mahal, it doesn’t belong to her.
By the brief biographical descriptions of these ladies in the article, they appear to be well educated. Perhaps they missed the class on constitutionality where John Adams, in the framing of the Constitution, was quoted as saying, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
There is truth to the adage “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” If the Louisville Landmarks Commission votes in favor of these ladies they may end up with a boarded-up white-elephant eyesore that can’t be demolished and will be a blight on the Douglass Boulevard community. I trust that reason and rights will prevail over fatuous emotion.
– Ralph Koslik, 40204
EDITOR’S NOTE: Inaccuracies in the Twig and Leaf story (March 2011) were brought to our attention after publication, and we would like to correct the following points.
The story stated that landmarking the Twig and Leaf would make demolition impossible. In fact, granting landmark status can make demolition more difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
In addition, the story stated that Rachel Kennedy once worked for the “state landmarks commission,” but she actually worked for the Kentucky Heritage Council-The State Historic Preservation Office.
The article also said that the Kentucky Heritage Council deemed the building eligible for landmark status years ago. But though the council places buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not involved in landmark status.
We apologize for these inaccuracies.