“retro-futuristic domes slowly drifting apart”
According to Coastal Breeze News: "The way the domes look today is much more reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic scene than in their heyday of the 1980’s. The domes that have slowly drifted apart and into the Gulf were once a fully functioning home equipped with satellite television and even a hot tub. The futuristic look of the dome homes is incredibly fitting. In 1980, Bob Lee began work on a home that would be completely self-sufficient; a rather unusual idea during a time of excess in the United States. Lee spent the years of 1978 and 1979 purchasing lots on Cape Romano from four different owners in order to build his dream home. But before he set to work on the property, he built a prototype on the family’s land in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. “Building it was the fun part for my dad, but he also loved the seclusion of living on the island; fishing, shelling and watching the weather.” An independent oil producer, Lee retired at the age of 44. “He loved inventing things. He invented a heat source for under the floors of our house and had an invention that would bring logs in and drop them on the fireplace that came through the wall of our den. Kids loved him. He was just fun to be around; a really adventurous guy way before his time.” In order to get the necessary supplies to Cape Romano, Lee purchased a barge which hauled everything including two concrete mixers, the metal dome forms and fresh water to mix the cement with. “He took sand from the island to a cement-testing lab in Skokie, Illinois and found it to be the perfect aggregate, so he mixed the concrete from the sand of the island,” adds Maples. But why domes? According to Lee’s grandson, Mike Morgan, “My grandfather designed it so that when the rain would hit the domes, all the rainwater would wash down into a gutter system that he built around the domes. That would all lead into a 23,000 gallon cistern under the center dome. The water would run through filters and that’s what we would use for showers and dishwashing; things like that. “The house was totally self-sustaining. He had several solar panels for power along with backup generators if it was cloudy for several days.” The solar panels provided free electric to the 2,400 square foot home which featured air conditioning, two hot water heaters, ceiling fans, a refrigerator, a satellite dish, hot tub, gas barbecue and two lighted wooden walkways; one leading to a lagoon, the other to the ocean. Finished in 1982, the Lee’s and their family enjoyed the home for just two years before selling it in 1984. They repossessed the dome home in 1987 when the current owner got into financial troubles. Bob and Margaret remodeled the interior and kept the home until 1993, one year after Hurricane Andrew. Morgan, who helped with repairs after the storm, adds, “Andrew didn’t do a ton of damage, really. The main structure’s design is very high wind resistant because there’s no sharp edges or flat surfaces for the wind to catch on. That was another thought process that my grandfather had when he built them. But the windows, obviously were not, so that was the main damage.”
To get to the domes, I rented a center console from the Coon Key marina in nearby Goodland. From there it was simple to navigate to the island and find the domes. If you're nearby, and have even minimal boating experience, I'd say that stopping to see the house would be very worth your time. The house doesn't have much longer before it's fully underwater, and the beaches on Cape Romero Island are as beautiful as they are devoid of tourists.
Sunny Day = Beautiful Trip! My beau and I drove to Caxambas Pass Park in Marco Island. There we rented a jet ski from one of the jet ski companies advertised at the park and rode out 6-8 miles to get to the Dome Homes. We stayed for about 15 minutes to explore the Dome Homes. Much of it is vandalized already and too submerged in the water to actually explore by foot. But check this place out anyway if you like the idea of exploring an abandoned place via jet ski. :)
A great place to visit, pretty kooky but cool.
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The Domes of Cape Romano
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