Baldasare Forestiere immigrated to the United States from Italy in the early 1900’s. He purchased a plot of land in Fresno California with the dream of starting a farm. His land however was not suitable for farming, just below the surface was hardpan earth. Baldasare initially started digging out an underground tunnel to sleep in to escape the blazing hot Fresno summers.


He started to experiment with growing plants underground. He would plant them in these tunnels he had built and allowed them to grow up toward openings in the roof.


Below the ground, the trees are protected from winter frost but still have access to the sun above.


This configuration allowed Baldasare to grow all kinds of different fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, figs, almonds, pears, olives, avocado and so on…


Grape vines were used near the openings to the surface to act as insulation.


Over the 40 years he spent in the US, he continued to dig more and more tunnels around his 10-acre property. Eventually, ending up with 65 rooms. One of the tunnels was large enough to drive a car through.


The hardpan that was found while digging was used to build arches and walls.


Today, some of the trees he planted are still there and are now over 100 years old.


His tunnels were equipped with gardens, kitchens, bedrooms, ponds and in some places were two stories deep. The deepest tunnel was 25 feet underground.


He had two different bedrooms. One designed for warmth in the winter and one designed to catch breezes during the summer.


As word started to get around about the tunnels he had built, uninvited guests would show up and security started to become an issue.





Fortunately, some of the tunnels have been preserved by his family and you can make arrangements to get a tour of what remains. If you ever find yourself in Fresno California, I would certainly recommend checking it out.



1 Comment

Ted · July 28, 2020 at 10:22 pm

Cool!

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