Baldassare Forestiere was the ingenious creator and builder of a large maze of underground rooms and passageways that he patterned after the ancient catacombs, and which can still be seen today in Fresno, California.
A young and naive Sicilian immigrant with no formal education, he came to America in the early 1900s to build a citrus empire. Instead, he spent the next 40 years of his life carving out the useless farmland he had purchased for such into a habitable underground oasis adorned with luscious fruit trees and grapevines that he planted underground. He never intended to spend his life digging his way to success, but rather to free himself from the iron rule of his father and prove that he was a worthy and capable businessman.
Go underground with the Ag Traveler, as we tour Baldassare’s underground oasis, and learn about his passion from his nephew and great niece.
The Forestiere Historical Center is independently owned and operated by Lyn Forestiere Kosewski, one of Baldassare Forestiere’s great nieces and the daughter of the Gardens' owner, Ric Forestiere. After the passing of Baldassare Forestiere, with no will the property went to the state. Lyn’s grandfather would purchase as much of the land that he could afford. The rest of the acres were sold off to development and independent buyers.
For years the facility was run by Lyn’s mother and brother who have passed the reins on to Lyn and her sister. Her sister handles most of the books while Lyn continues the tours and development and restoration of the facility.
We’ll meet with Lyn and her father, the owner of the facility and take the extraordinary tour starting in the ballroom underground. There are gardens through out and even an aquarium, under restoration.
Lyn is unsure of the future for the facility, but hopes to be able to pass it along to the next generation. But says it is very challenging to keep it moving.