The Legacy of the Cape Romano Dome House: A Journey from Seclusion to Submersion
Located offshore from Cape Romano Island in the Ten Thousand Islands of Collier County, Florida, the Cape Romano Dome House once stood as a unique architectural marvel. Constructed in 1982 by retired oil producer Bob Lee, the house comprised six dome-shaped modules on stilts, showcasing a futuristic design that reflected Lee’s innovative spirit.
Over the years, the Cape Romano Dome House underwent various transformations, changing ownership multiple times. However, its fate took a dramatic turn on September 28, 2022, when the structures succumbed to the relentless force of Hurricane Ian, submerging the iconic domes underwater.
Following a vision for a vacation home, Bob Lee spent the late 1970s and early 1980s acquiring land on Morgan Island. Purchasing four adjacent plots, Lee began constructing an autonomous, solar-powered dwelling that defied traditional architectural norms. The Cape Romano Dome House consisted of six interconnected dome structures featuring three bedrooms and three bathrooms within its 2,400 square feet. The domes, not only aesthetically unique, were designed to provide superior hurricane protection, a crucial consideration in Florida’s coastal region.
Bob Lee’s daughter, Jane Maples, fondly recalled her father’s enthusiasm for the project, emphasizing his love for seclusion and invention. The house was more than just a dwelling; it manifested Lee’s adventurous spirit and forward-thinking approach. The domes, rounded tops and sturdy concrete walls differed from conventional architecture.
Sustainability and Innovation
Bob Lee’s commitment to sustainability was evident in every aspect of the Cape Romano Dome House. The concrete walls were crafted from sand sourced from the island itself. The house featured a unique rainwater collection system, with gutters directing water into a massive tank for purification. Solar panels provided power, and a 23,000-gallon cistern stored water for daily use. The house’s design, with its absence of sharp edges and flat surfaces, made it highly wind-resistant.
The Lee family initially used the house as a vacation retreat, reveling in the seclusion and innovative features. Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, tested the structural integrity of the domes. While the hurricane caused minimal damage to the sturdy structure, the windows suffered, prompting the family to abandon the home.
Later History and Challenges
The Cape Romano Dome House underwent a series of ownership changes, with Bob Lee selling and repossessing the property. In 2005, John Tosto purchased the house to renovate it. However, Hurricane Wilma in the same year, followed by regulatory challenges and erosion, thwarted Tosto’s plans. Facing fines and a demolition order, the house stood abandoned, occasionally visited by curious onlookers.
By 2013, the domes had transformed into an underwater reef teeming with marine life. Snorkelers marveled at the vibrant ecosystem that had taken residence beneath the remnants of the once-innovative structure. Despite efforts in 2015 to relocate the domes and create an underwater reef as part of Florida’s history, funding still needs to be completed.
Submersion and Closure
Hurricane Irma 2017 took its toll, collapsing two domes into the ocean. The Collier County Code Enforcement Division closed the case in 2018, transferring ownership to the state. On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian dealt the final blow, submerging the remaining domes and leaving only a few pilings above the water.
The Cape Romano Dome House, once a symbol of innovation and sustainability, now rests beneath the waves, its legacy forever altered by the forces of nature. From its construction in 1982 to its eventual submersion in 2022, the domes witnessed a journey marked by ingenuity, challenges, and a connection with the natural environment. The underwater ruins continue to serve as a testament to the ever-changing relationship between architecture and the elements, showcasing the transient nature of human creations in the face of the powerful forces of the natural world.
Further Information On Dome House In Florida, USA
Date Construction Started: 1980
Date Opened: 1982
Cost Of Building: N/A
Architect: Bob Lee
Architectural Style: Modern
Size Or Floor Area: 2,400 square meters
Function Or Purpose: Dwelling Residence
Phone Number: N/A
Opening Hours: N/A