She grew up in the modest but beautiful mansion above town, with a giant fir-studded yard between Mountain Avenue and Elkader Street, owned for years by her late father, noted Ashland lawyer Sid Ainsworth, since the late 1940s.
But one day recently, Lynnea Forderer, Ainsworth's daughter, walked by the site of the old house and found it gone, razed to the foundation, with many big trees missing.
On her Facebook, she wrote, “It was the only house whose property spanned from one street to the other, above the University … . I’m in a little bit of shock. This house has deep foundations in my inner child’s psyche. My father put so much time and love into it, with the Japanese garden, two rose gardens and a pool. All of it’s gone.”
April Lucas of the Ashland Planning Department said the owner of the property is Gil Livni of Ashland. He did not immediately return multiple calls for comment. Records show he had a building permit to do an addition/remodel. Livni, after returning from a trip overseas, said work began in December and continued through mid-February, with the intention to leave portions of the first floor standing, but it, too, was leveled due to safety concerns since previous remodeling work by a prior owner had weakened the structural integrity of what was left of the house. The house had not been maintained for years before he purchased it, Livni said, and was in a "dire state," which he had hoped to correct through the remodeling work. Lucas said she did not know what penalties could be levied for an unauthorized razing beyond what work was permitted. (March 29: This story has been updated with information added after Livni contacted the Tidings. References to the timing of the work and status of his applications have been corrected.)
A real estate broker, who researched the place, said the property and home sold recently for $825,000.
Forderer's Facebook posting was commented on by dozens of Ashlanders who grew up playing in the house and pool or just admiring it.
“I loved that place. It breaks my heart. I live up the street,” wrote Lydia Norris.
“Omg! I spent practically all my days in the summer with you at your house. So many wonderful memories there,” said Cheryl Keeton-Damon.
Debra Tischhauser Boyle wrote, “I am filled with sadness. Such a grand old house, and those gardens and grounds. We could run for hours and I remember climbing higher and higher in those wonderful trees.”
Rabbi David Zaslow, living a few houses away on Elkader, wrote, “It’s been really sad to see it decimated … . It was a grand house! It’s been a wonderful neighborhood landmark for me the past 42 years. So sad to see it gone.”
“That was my favorite house,” wrote Tascha Schall, who lives a few blocks away. “They are building four new houses there.” Livni says he actually plans to build three, not four, houses on the three adjoining lots he purchased, and plans to live in one of them. He currently lives elsewhere in Ashland. (March 29: This paragraph has been updated with Livni's comment.)
Relatives commented also.
“Oh my gosh, so many memories for me. To this day, I would always drive by when in Ashland,” wrote Paul Ainsworth. “I have so many memories, but one is having to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim. That 30 minutes was so long I still feel like I am waiting.”
“How many kids learned to swim in that pool? I loved to hear the stories about all your precious dad did to make it the most beautiful home in Ashland,” said Janet Ainsworth. “I’m sorry it’s gone. Thank goodness for the memories that can’t be taken away.”
“I remember swimming there and Uncle would throw quarters in the deep end, good times,” said Dale Ainsworth.
Forderer, now an Ayurvedic counselor on A Street, said, in an interview, “I spent my life in those trees. The rose gardens and pear trees, the breakfast nook and the fireplace, framed by ceramic and wood. When I was 5, we kids would run in and out of each other’s houses. We built a tree house. We would spend all day in the pool … . I was attached to this house but I didn’t know how much. I shaped myself to it.
“It would have torn my dad up to see this. He said (when they moved out, about 1980, and it was empty) that I was in that house and he heard it cry.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.