Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Californian Treasure: The Forestiere Underground Gardens

One of the “hidden” treasures of California is the Forestiere Underground Gardens. I say hidden because while to some the landmark is already well-known, those who have no idea about it will be surprised to see a row of chartered buses along a nondescript stretch of road in Fresno, California for no apparent reason.

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The beauty lies underneath.

The subterranean garden is a manmade creation, built by Sicilian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere over a period of four decades starting from 1906. He bought a parcel of land wherein he initially wanted to grow trees and vines, only to be disappointed to discover that his lot was a solid plate of hardpan rock.

Taking inspiration from the Roman catacombs he was infatuated with during his younger years, he spent countless hours digging through the slabs of rocks to create an underground home.

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Before his death in 1946, he was able to carve an unfinished underground network of complex arches and pathways that led to different niches, such as bedrooms for the summer and winter, bathrooms, a functional kitchen, courtyards, and patios. He made all of these with hand tools worth just $300. And contrary to what the name implies, the underground gardens are full of light due to skylights and grottos.

If you are planning to visit this roadside attraction, it is situated on Shaw Avenue, which runs east from Highway 99, and just an hour away from the Yosemite National Park.

My name is Scott Jay Abraham, a home and office interior designer from California. I am a travel aficionado, with an affinity for going to odd roadside attractions. Visit this LinkedIn profile to know more about me.