Alien architecture, home to a local cult, and secret military facility are just some of the rumors surrounding the Cape Romano Dome Homes off the coast of Florida. But as the sea slowly consumes them, the truth has finally come to light – the domes make up a solar-powered holiday home built in the 1980s by an independent oil producer. Bob Lee's DIY project put sustainable technology to use long before it was needed, and even survived a hurricane or two. Unfortunately, his vision is powerless against rising sea levels, and this is the last chance we'll have to see the domes before they are completely swallowed up.
Before building the seaworthy version, Bob constructed a prototype of the house on family land in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It’s also managed to survive the test of time, but suffers from a moisture problem, according to Bob’s daughter, Janet Maples. Apart from solar power, the house in Florida had other futuristic features, such as under-floor heating and an invention that would bring logs in and drop them on the fireplace via a wall in the kid’s den.
Janet told Coastal Breeze about the different stories she has heard from locals over the years. “I can remember one time, we went to the drug store on Marco and some people in the row behind me were saying, ‘Have you been by those dome houses?’ And the other one said, ‘Yeah, but I hear they guard that with machine guns!’ Somehow it got a reputation of being a scary place.”
Bob has since passed away, but Janet remembers him fondly: “Kids loved him. He was just fun to be around; a really adventurous guy way before his time.” The house has changed hands over the years, and eventually succumbed to hurricane damage, but it was the Department of Environmental Protection and the Collier County Code Enforcement Board that signed the house’s death warrant in 2007. Luckily, the previous owner never did remove them, which means you still have a chance see them if you’re ever in Florida.