Cape Romano Dome Home, Marco Island, Florida
I posted some pictures on Instagram of the Cape Romano Dome Home and people were curious about it. They are pretty unique so I thought I’d share a little info on them.
We have been to the mysterious and eerie Dome Home several times on our boat. It is so strange to see the structures when you pull up close. The home is not habitable now, and is actually falling apart and into the Gulf of Mexico. There were once 6 dome structures, on land, but now only 4 remain, hundreds of feet from shore.
I was curious as to what they looked like when they were livable. After searching the internet a bit I found some great pictures of how they did look ‘back in the day’, and a backstory on the homes themselves.
A Short History of the Dome Home…
The story behind them, and the ingenuity of the builder, are really interesting and quite remarkable. Here is a little history on the Dome Home (according to Wikipedia and other online articles).
“The Cape Romano Dome House is an abandoned house consisting of six dome-shaped modules on stilts, located approximately 300 feet offshore from Cape Romano Island (as of 2019), south of Marco Island, in the Ten Thousand Islands of Collier County, Florida. It was constructed in 1980 by retired businessman Bob Lee, abandoned in 1992, and sold in 2005 to John Tosto. The structure was never meant to be accessible by boat, and has no landings or docking facilities.” – Wikipedia
Bob Lee was a very ambitious and brilliant DIY’er and inventor trying to fill his time after he retired. The home was completely self-sustaining and solar powered, making it ‘green’ before being ‘green’ was cool. According to his daughter, Janet, “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.”
The home had 3-bedrooms, and 3-baths. It had everything (and more) that you would expect in a home, even a hot tub and satellite TV. In addition to solar power, Mr. Lee built troughs around the domes to capture water. The water then ran through a filter and into a completely enclosed 55,000 gallon tank under one of the domes. Because the tank held so much water, even if rain was scarce, there was never a shortage of water.
Mr. Lee thought the corners of rooms were wasted space as were the corners of the ceiling. He thought the dome ceiling gave the feeling of openness. It certainty appeared large from the images below.
(I found the next three images online)
This vacation home ended up becoming the Lee’s permanent home, and it stood standing after several major hurricanes. The shape of the home withstood the high winds (and was intentionally built this way). It wasn’t until 1992 when Hurricane Andrew came, that left the house uninhabitable. Actually, Andrew didn’t do much damage to the outside of the home, but the windows didn’t survive, causing major destruction to the inside. That is when and the Lee’s moved out. The home remained empty for many years as the island continued to erode, leaving the home further and further from land.
John Tosto bought the home for $300,000 in 2005 and had plans to bring the structures back onto the beach. Unfortunately, a few months after purchasing the property, Hurricane Wilma struck, eroding the coastline and further destabilizing the house’s foundation. Later the county demanded that Tosto have the homes demolished, but that never happened.
In 2018, the Collier County Code Enforcement division closed the case on the domes and ownership transferred to the state. While the fate of the Domes is still in debate, people who have snorkeled there say it now serves as a reef for thousands of fish. It is also a popular fishing, boating and tourist spot.
The following pictures were taken by me in 2016 (before Hurricane Irma). You can see there were still 6 domes…
And these were taken by me also, a few weekends ago in March, 2020…only 4 domes remain…
The island itself is BEAUTIFUL. I can see why Mr. Lee wanted to build here. If you ever come to Naples, or Marco Island, take one of the many tours available to this unique place. It has amazing shelling, and you’ll probably see a dolphin or two.