Tour de Fresno: Forestiere Underground Gardens

by Rainbow Bobbins

Me and Ma’s Epic Tour de Fresno included a trip to one of the (literally) coolest places to go in Fresno — Forestiere Underground Gardens. Built by Sicilian immigrant, Baldassare Forestiere, the Underground Gardens were carved out of Fresno hard-pan by an incredibly hardworking day laborer who was a skilled, self-taught engineer and horticulturalist. Baldassare started digging into Fresno in the early 1900s to create a home. By 1923 he had dug out over 10 acres of land and turned it into a maze of an underground complex that was engineered to be 10 degrees cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The garden/home is a study in self-sufficiency. Water holding chambers fed the bathing quarters, a fish pond and the fruit trees that were planted below ground and grew up through skylights. Although the walls were dirt, the complex was not without a ballroom. In his spare time, Baldassare grafted trees so different kinds of fruit grew on one tree. A devout catholic, he often designed his different living chambers with themes of 3 – representing the holy trinity. All of this was created after getting off work as a day laborer. In Fresno. In 100 degree heat. The guy is a badass. From the surface, Forestiere Undgerground Gardens is unassuming. Swallowed by Fresno sprawl, the home and gardens are now situated on a busy road and rubs shoulders with Burger King, McDonalds and In and Out Burger. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area — the place is amazing and a true testimony to what people can accomplish when they get a serious hair up their ass.

Forestiere Underground Gardens

Forestiere Underground Gardens

The Incredible Baldassare Forestiere

The Incredible Baldassare Forestiere

Forestiere Gardens Above Ground

Forestiere Gardens Above Ground

View from the ballroom of Forestiere Gardens to one of the courtyards

View from the ballroom of Forestiere Gardens to one of the courtyards

Trees were planted underground and grow up through skylights, notice the Fresno hard-pan rocks used to construct the walls

Trees were planted underground and grow up through skylights, notice the Fresno hard-pan rocks used to construct the walls

This is where Baldassare bathed. I like it

This is where Baldassare bathed. I like it

The home is a maze of courtyard and living spaces

The home is a maze of courtyard and living spaces

Forestiere Kitchen -- Imagine how cool, yet soggy it was when it rained

Forestiere Kitchen -- Imagine how cool, yet soggy it was when it rained

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