The Reimagined Glass House Brings Creativity to Jefferson Street
By Jeremy Angione | Photos by Ashlee Glen
Jefferson Street in downtown Lynchburg is rich with an old charm that gives the area its “historic” moniker. The cobblestone streets and even the James River continually evoke a sense of nostalgia to anyone passing by.
Although several new businesses have found a home on the quiet riverside street, The Glass House has been reinvented as a gastro lounge and cocktail bar, which reopened on October 18, 2023.
Originally purchased in 2019 by Dave Henderson and a group of investors, including Jason Cudd, Gordon Cudd, Daniel Sadusky, and Nathan Kalons, the Glass House initially served as a music and events venue.
“At the time, the music scene was tough here in Lynchburg. We decided to strategically pivot so that we could create a space that hopefully would engage the community more often than a music venue might,” Henderson explained.
As owner of The Water Dog and the Hen and Hound restaurant management group, which operates Fratelli Italian Kitchen and No. 7 Rooftop Bar, Henderson wanted the reenvisioned Glass House to be a wholly unique experience within his portfolio and in the Lynchburg area.
“I just felt that we had an opportunity to bring something new and exciting to downtown Lynchburg and with such a unique space, our team wanted to challenge the food scene with an experience unlike anything in the area,” Henderson said.
To create a completely new experience, Henderson says that it was necessary to make “significant changes to the infrastructure.” Although the Glass House was initially slated to reopen earlier this year, any curious onlooker strolling by the unfinished site would likely see the amount of work the Hen and Hound team put into reimagining the space.
According to Jason and Gordon Cudd, they had to tear up the plumbing, the bathrooms, and even the kitchen, which Jason joked used to be the size of a postage stamp.
What was, even in its previous iteration, a fairly cold and gray space, is now a warmly decorated lounge colored in deep greens and browns, with gold accents dashed through the room.
Henderson says that with the help of a Richmond-based architectural firm and interior designer Sharon Norris, “We were able to pinpoint an aesthetic that so far has been working.”
According to Henderson, the inspiration for the reenvisioned Glass House is thanks, in part, to a previously popular event, Rosé Thursday.
“We knew that we wanted to capture the Rosé Thursday scene that we had previously. The people who were here for Rosé Thursday were the audience that we were searching for in the new iteration of this restaurant,” Henderson said.
Despite its new, upscale finish, for guests the Glass House remains surprisingly approachable. Scanning the crowd during the busy service would reveal a diverse demographic of guests. Various ages, races, and even fashion senses feel comfortably represented.
“This might be the most diverse restaurant that we operate. Look, I’m a guy that wears my hat backward and I still feel at home here,” Henderson said.
The accessibility of the Glass House experience extends to the comprehensive menu of small plate-style meals and signature cocktails.
While items may be pricier than a trip to the Water Dog, there are plenty of options for guests to have a unique, homey, and affordable experience.
According to Henderson, the Glass House team worked hard to make the atmosphere, menu, and prices as accessible as possible.
“I didn’t want people to feel that this is only their special occasion spot,” he said.
The menus are as diverse in their offerings as they are fun, thanks to the combined efforts of General Manager Heather Harris and Chef Candace Vinson.
“The menu at the Glass House is what I like to describe as ‘conversational food’,” Vinson said.
She says that her inspirations and hopes for her dishes come from the “every day.” Vinson likes to blend everyday ingredients to create a unique dish that will encourage guests to chat about their newfound favorites. Likewise, Vinson’s dishes are inspired by everyday people and their stories of the foods they ate growing up in their respective backgrounds.
“I am also a lover of culture. My goal is to honor the food culture in Virginia and to honor the various ethnicities of our community. It brings me so much joy when a guest finds a cultural tie in one of our dishes,” Vinson said.
Guests should take additional comfort in the care that went into the kitchen layout in which Vinson prepares their meals. What was the size of a postage stamp could now very well fit a whole other restaurant. Vinson’s kitchen is a spacious, clean, and organized space, with every ingredient and tool placed with care for efficiency.
Vinson says that her team’s current and ongoing goal for the Glass House menu is
to “continue to create a bridge of familiar and unfamiliar delicacies.” She says that their farming partners are currently preparing the gardens for their Spring
and Summer menu.
While the interior design and menus have received considerable focus in the new Glass House, Henderson admits that he wants the impact of the restaurant to extend outward to the community.
“I have been so appreciative of the relationships that are being cultivated on this street,” Henderson said.
The diversity of business types and leaders on Jefferson Street is a point of inspiration for Henderson, which drives him and his team to cultivate a sort of destination point for the community.
“There’s this notion of activating Jefferson Street in a way that allows all of us business owners to work together to create a whole new vibe for downtown.”
Only a few months into its reopening, Henderson says that the support for the Glass House’s new vision has been overwhelming.
“I did want us to stand out and be different, but I also never expected people to compare this space to something you might find in a larger city. Our reservations have been close to one hundred percent booked almost every night.”
While the Glass House has shifted away from its use as a venue, it will still be home to unique events such as Rosé Thursday. It also recently hosted a wine dinner in association with Antiquum Farm.
When winter ends, Henderson says the Glass House plans to extend its hours and unveil a weekend brunch menu.