Monday, June 11, 2018

Baldassare Forestiere Part Two

I survived the onslaught of fair goers, but just barely.  Wait until you hear.  In the meantime, back to Baldassare's underground house.  He was a very religious man, so things were always built in threes as in the Holy Trinity.  Here's two of the niches representing the seven sacraments in the entrance courtyard.  As you can see, the first floor wasn't all that deep.  Trellises were built across the openings to provide a little shade from the hot California sun.
Right next door to his winter bedroom, is the summer bedroom.  Funny they both looked exactly the same to me.  This one did have luggage storage and a large window that looked out to the bathroom courtyard.  To the top right of the image you can even see a mural Baldassare painted of his citrus trees.  Looks pretty comfortable!
As you move in and around the areas, you'll find a tiny chapel and an aquarium built between the first and second floor.  It has a plexiglass bottom and so no matter what floor you are on, you can either look up or down to see the fish.
I couldn't quite figure out his construction techniques.  He cut the arches out for each doorway, then added bricks, followed by a hardpan concrete mixture being pushed up into the bricks with something that looked like metal straps, leaving indentations in the mud work.  Hard to explain .... you would have to see it for yourself.
The longer he was there, the more he wanted to build a hotel/entertainment center.  The home got deeper and the courtyards bigger with even more fruit trees to feed his guests.  There were several types of oranges, grapefruit and even grapes.  
These trees are all HUGE, not to mention over 100 years old and STILL producing fruit.  I'm actually down at the second floor level here, looking through the tunnel under the underground driveway.
Baldassare decided his guests should arrive in their Model T's through this entrance tunnel.  You can see all manner of structural supports, including leaf springs, rebar, old barbed wire fence and even bed springs.  He was the original recycler.
We went down and around, ending up inside the tunnel that he cut out with a Fresno plow and two mules.  Here's a good look at the hardpan he was dealing with.  Eventually you are able to cut through the concrete like material to soil below.
Towards the end of the tunnel, you come to a large door which brings you right into the hotel ballroom.  In 1946 poor Baldassare passed away before it could be completed, leaving everything to his family.  I can't remember how many siblings he had ... maybe five.  There was a little bit of a scuffle as they tried to split up the inheritance.  No one wanted the underground home.

In the end, it was all sold off except for what you see today.  The only reason it's here is because Baldassare's brother Giuseppe "Joe" used his part of the money to buy the property you see.  The balance was sold off to developers who destroyed everything else to build their own hotels and commercial properties.
Joe finished off the ballroom in concrete block, then painted it rather oddly to make it look even more like blocks.  At this level a small portion of the roof is above the level of the soil.  The windows are all amazingly beautiful and original.
Here's Joe in his younger days.  Nothing here would exist at all if it weren't for him.  As a kid I remember driving past Forestiere gardens and seeing him standing on the corner waving to everyone that went by.  No wait ... I'm not really THAT old, so I must not have seen him after all.
Around the outside edges you can see just how all this construction was done.  Here's a corner section  dug out just waiting for the hardpan arches.
He certainly was a hardworking man.  A man who took his crushed dreams and made them into lemonade.  A very good looking guy in my eyes, he never married nor had any children.  It's amazing what a little imagination can do.  If you are ever driving through Fresno California, be sure and stop in to say hello.  If I remember right, seniors get in for $15 and it's worth every penny.
I survived the County Fair, but barely.  I hurt all over and am headed for the couch where I plan on spending every single minute of this day with a large bottle of aspirin.  No loud noises and no ball game please ... Mom needs some sleep.


  1. What an incredibly cool man! And yes, a looker. ;)
    Thank you for this tour, I hope we can get there one day to see it for ourselves. The bedrooms look very comfy with the traditional quilts. I enjoyed this very much!
    Hope you manage to get some well-deserved rest today!

  2. An amazing accomplishment , back in the day. Thanks for the tour and information.