Forestiere Underground Gardens
5021 West Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA, USA
forestiere-historicalcenter.… - (559) 271-0734
Forestiere Underground Gardens Fresno Reviews
underground garden: man's creativity and passion... Aug 16, 2014
There is something really cool in my area. About 45 minute-drive from where I live on the northwestern edge of the city of Fresno, is an underground garden and home!
The underground garden, tunnels, rooms and courtyards were built for over 40 years by just ONE man, and this man was Baldassare Forstiere. And yes, he solely worked on his project with only a few digging tools and maybe a mule or two, but not a single dynamite was thrown on his property. Amazingly, he only worked on his project when he came home from his day job. Baldassare was a Sicilian immigrant, worked as subway digger in Boston prior to his move to California, never married nor had a child.
With $80.00 in his pocket, he bought a vast land in a city called Fresno. He wanted to grow all kinds of edible plants, but the first hit on the ground with his digging gadget, he found out that underneath the soil were cemented hardpan series of soil. Disappointed, he set aside those digging tools and landed a job.
The idea to build an underground garden came to him when he could no longer tolerate the desert temperature of Fresno (or the San Joaquin Valley in general.) His initial intention was to create an underground retreat place when the summer weather in the valley became intolerable. Obviously, one room led to another soon he had a kitchen, parlor, fireplace, fishpond and lush garden of fruit-bearing trees. He started carving his underground home and garden in the early 1920s. By 1940s, he got sick of hernia (considering the strenuous labor work he alone did,) but at the age of 47 (I think,) he died of pneumonia. Obviously, there were still lots of unfinished diggings. Later, Baldassare’s brother took over the “unfinished” underground haven. Today, this incredible off-beat underground garden is being manage by later generations of Baldassare and his brother’s family. Also, the site is under the protection of National Historic Places Society.
We followed our tour guide to a 50-minute walking, stopping down and bending through the tunnels and various rooms of the underground dwelling. And each room has a fascinating story behind. As we navigate through the narrow corridors, I cannot help but admire not just the resplendent intricacies of the structure but more so to Baldassare’s passion and creativity! Did it ever occur to his mind that one day his “hideout” will become famous and well-visited by people from all around the globe.
The adult tour price is $15.00 and children ages 5-17 is $7.00
Overall, it was a worth it visit, but in my opinion the guided tour was a bit rushed. I wish the management will give enough time for visitors to roam around. ~
Most of the photos don't have a good quality because I ended up using my cellphone for taking pictures...it was a very rush walking tour so I didn't have time to focus or set the "nice" camera :)) ~
12 / 12 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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A very unique place to see May 15, 2011
An immigrant named Baldassare Forestiere came to America at the age of twenty-two in hopes of becoming a fruit merchant. But the land he purchased was well west of the foothill area where citrus trees thrive. His land would be useless, and not only that but he found out that the summer temperatures that were often over one hundred and as high as 120 degrees would be hard for him to take also. But this ingenious guy thought about the ancient catacombs of the Mediterranean region where he was born and decided to begin digging a home underground. Starting around 1906 he used shovels, picks, wheelbarrows, and a scraper pulled by two mules to create this catacomb of about 10 acres, some parts as deep as 25 feet underground. There were never any plans drawn and it took him several years to get to the point where he put a stove in one of the rooms to prepare meals and warm the rooms in winter.
He then decided to try growing trees and vines in the catacombs and added skylights for the sunlight they would need. He built planters for each one and the various fruit and citrus trees and grape vines grew well and the skylights added enough light that it was more comfortable in the daylight hours. He continued to dig and carve for the next 40 years.
The site is a California Historical Site and you can follow the signs right to the property, right off Shaw avenue
Today his family holds tours of the underground gardens and maintains most of the property. The tours are about 45 minutes to an hour. Prices are $14 for Adults, $12 Seniors,$7 for kids.
For something very different, this is an hour well spent, especially during the summer when you can enjoy the difference between the heat above and below ground.
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy