Forestiere Underground Garden

Forestiere Underground Garden (Photo Credit: Ron's Log [Flickr])

In the comment section of our previous This Bold House post, Neatorama reader Laura told us about this gem of a home in Fresno, California: the Forestiere Underground Gardens, which was built by a Sicilian immigrant named Balsadare Forestiere.

In 1906, Forestiere spent 40 years building (using only his farmer's tools and two mules, with no dynamites) a complex of underground rooms, passageways, and garden, complete with skylights and catchbasins for water. The garden has a variety of full trees and vines. It is now a historical landmark.

Why did he do it?

After a bitter argument with his father over the 22-year-old Baldassare’s future, Forestiere came to America to fulfill his dreams of independence and good fortune as a fruit merchant, only to tragically discover that the California land he purchased for agricultural purposes would be useless for such. To make matters worse, the staggering summer temperatures of Fresno, which routinely reached 115 to 120 degrees, tormented him.

Forestiere desperately needed a way to escape the crushing summer heat. He remembered the coolness of the underground cellars where he grew up and decided to excavate a cellar on his land where he could cool off during the hottest parts of the day. It was so effective in giving him relief that he carved a few more rooms. ventually he “moved in” and installed a small wood stove for cooking his meals and heating the cellar during the winter. While others in Fresno baked inside their stifling wood houses built above ground, Baldassare enjoyed the air-conditioned privacy of his novel underground hideaway.

Then Forestiere had an idea--could he get a tree to grow underground? He began to experiment. He built a planter from the hardpan chunks he dug out and filled it with soil he reconditioned. A skylight was cut at the top of the experimental room, and the tree then planted. He found that with the right amount of sunlight, water, and care, his
citrus tree would not only flourish, but would be protected from the frost.

Link - Thanks Laura!

I live in Fresno, and have for 27 years. Until 4 years ago I had not been to the Forestire Underground Gardens.
It was really interesting, and shouldn't be missed.
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