Supposedly, Jaye Hersh’s house in Ojai began its existence as a mob fortress. As it was told to her, the story behind the creation of Tudor-style estate is something of a legend. Completed in 1985, the 3.3-acre property was the dream house of a man named “Sal,” a New Jersey native who made his money in the trucking industry and paid cash for everything. Three years after the house was completed, he and his wife split up. He ran off with a 19-year-old woman from a local bakery, eventually creating a replica of the entire estate in West Palm Beach, Florida.
At the time, the couple approached the estate as two parents looking to make their family more centralized. “Between us, we had three kids at home,” says Hersh. The children were attending Villanova, Matilija, Topa Topa schools and Hersh’s mornings and afternoons were extremely hectic.
In an attempt to simplify their lives, they began a house hunt that led them to their home. At the time, it was called Summerfield Manor. What Hersh and her partner, Darakshan Dave Farber, found in 2000 when they moved in, was a heavily secured holdout, gated and with extensive security systems. But beyond the security cameras, they also discovered a nine-bedroom, 12-bathroom estate with a pool, Jacuzzi, two saunas, two guest houses and a pool house. The house was also built on a portion of what was once Ojai developer and town father Edward D. Libbey’s estate.
Mystery behind the wall
“I always wanted to know what was behind that wall,” Hersh says, referring to the property’s enclosure. After holding a Memorial Day weekend housewarming (with an estimated 500 guests), she found that many of her new neighbors had often wondered the same thing.
Her home easily welcomes such huge crowds, and the house itself — specifically its music room, straight back, off the foyer — was built for performance, fitting for a woman long established in Ojai as a recurring stage actor and music personality. Seventeen years ago, Hersh was also the driving force behind Madrigali, an a cappella group that now performs 100 Renaissance-era vocal pieces.
Madrigali’s annual Christmas concert is held in the music room. There, audiences of upward of 250 people watch the singers. The rotating audience encircles the singers in the center of the room, using pillows and ottomans as make-shift theater seats.
“Every 20 minutes,” says Hersh, “the audience changes.”
Sharing the songs
Such events are not unusual for the home, now rechristened Glen Muse. “We were thinking about it as a place for creative people to regenerate,” Hersh says, “where muses feel free to operate.”
“We kind of think of it as a recharging station,” she says, alluding to the near constant stream of people who stay in her home. In their seven years at the house, Hersh and Farber have hosted musicians, writers and actors, many of whom were connected to Ojai events like the yearly music festivals or the Playwrights Conference. These have included such luminaries as pianist Marino Formenti and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham.
“The music room has really great acoustics for strings, voices and piano,” says Hersh, noting that it houses a six-foot Baldwin piano. There are four pianos on property, as well as a Hammond B3 organ, two upright basses, a clarinet, a trumpet, a sitar, a harmonium, various drums.
“We use them all,” says Hersh.
Glen Muse has come a long way since its days as a locked-down, single-family citadel. As Hersh says, “What’s the point of having all this if you’re not going to share it with everybody?”