Fresno's Forestiere Underground Gardens

underground grotto of Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno California, image

Forestiere's legacy is carved in stone.

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In the early 1900s, a Sicilian immigrant named Baldasare Forestiere settled in Fresno, Calif., and bought a plot of farmland, sight unseen. Trusting fellow. He shouldn't have been. The land was covered in hardpan, rock-solid top-soil perfect for a parking lot.

Forestiere had earned his keep in New York and Boston by carving subway tunnels, so he began excavations to create a cool, subterranean home 25 feet down. By the time he died in 1946, his underground dwelling had some 90 rooms, with 10 acres of archways, patios, and grottoes.

Forestiere loved fruit trees, so he planted them—orange, lemon, pomegranate, date—cutting holes in the hardpan ceiling to let in light and rain. They're part of the allure of Forestiere Underground Gardens, which his family has preserved largely unchanged.

From the road, the site doesn't look like much, but then you see the treetops sprouting through the ground. On the one-hour tour, chances are you'll really dig these digs. Information: (559) 271-0734.

Photography by Sean Arbabi

This article was first published in July 2003. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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