Historical Forestiere Underground Gardens

July 11, 2008 8:27:30 PM PDT
Fresno Historical Landmark Has Long Provide Relief from the Heat. Relief from the intense heat has always been a priority for valley residents. A historical landmark in Fresno was built as a refuge from the sizzling sun.

People drive right past the Forestiere Underground Gardens every day on Shaw Avenue and have no idea what lies below or how much cooler it can be down there. Forestiere Underground Gardens tour guide Latieshka Simmons said "You feel it as soon as you come down the steps. You can just fell the coolness, which i love."

You do notice a cool down as you take a step back in time. The underground garden home was hand-carved by Baldasare Forestiere. He began digging in 1906. Simmons said "It took him 40 years and he did this all with a pick, a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Three simple tools."

Some thought Forestiere was crazy but in reality the transplant from Sicily was a genius. The underground complex is connected by a series of tunnels. The bedrooms are still intact and this scenic courtyard helps bring more cool air into the home. Simmons said "He's done this on purpose. Never building anything on a straight line. He'd build it left and right and up and down to keep the cool air moving all the time. Incorporated beautifully skylights everywhere."

You'll find Forestiere's old wood stove and ice box still in the kitchen. Margaret Schultz of Grass Valley was impressed on her tour. She said "I think it's amazing. I just kind of imagine...you can just kind of feel him here."

Baldasare Forestiere once said "The visions in my mind overwhelm me." Visitors marvel at the stonework and architecture. The stonework was made of hardpan he dug out of the ground.

The hardpan made his land unsuitable for planting so Forestiere grew his garden underground, a grape vine over 90-years old still bears fruit, He grafted as many as seven types of fruit to his citrus trees. Forestiere was ahead of his time in so many ways.

Schultz said "It's nice and cool and it's homey. It's not scary or anything. It's really homey. I like it."

Simmons added "Depending on where you're standing it is a 10-20 degree difference and it's really nice."

It's not just a home but more like a city in itself.

The Forestiere Underground Gardens are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
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