Cape Romano Dome House - Photo from Coastal Breeze News
Photo Credit: Coastal Breeze News

Built in 1981 on the southern tip of Marco Island, the Dome House is an igloo-like concrete complex made up of white dome chambers, now decaying and slipping slowly into the ocean. Many know about it’s whereabouts but it’s origins were up to debate; from alien to secret cults. In truth, it was built by a retired oil producer and inventor.

Bob Lee began work on the house in 1980 with the idea that it would be completely self-sufficient and eco-friendly. Purchasing a barge, he began by moving the necessary supplies to the island, including the metal dome forms, two concrete mixers and fresh water to mix the cement.

Florida’s turbulent weather was taken into account and the sturdy, rounded domes were able to sustain hurricane winds, having taken little damage from Hurricane Andrew years later. Having a second use, rain water would hit the domes and would wash down into a gutter system which surrounded them, which lead into a cistern under the main dome. After running the water through filters, the water was then able to be used for things such as showers or dishwashing. Solar panels were installed providing free electricity to the house.

After it’s completion in 1982, Lee and his family sold it just two years later in 1984. When the owner got into financial troubles, they repossessed the home in 1987 and lived in it until 1993. By that time, the island was already changing and had washed away other homes in the area.

Cape Romano Dome House - Photo from Coastal Breeze News
Photo Credit: Coastal Breeze News

It was purchased in 2005 by the John Tosto family with the hopes of renovating the home and making it functional again. Tosto planned on relocating the domes off state-owned lands and bring them into compliance with county building codes. The domes will be moved by crane and set atop new concrete or steel pilings more than 50 feet from the high tide line and at least 25 feet away from wetlands behind the site.Construction materials will be delivered by barge, and work will be timed to avoid sea turtle and shorebird nesting seasons, the permit application says.

Deemed unsafe, the Collier County Code Enforcement Board issued an order in 2007 to demolish the structures. Having already invested $500,000 into the parcel, he refused and was fined for $187,000 in 2009. Tosto spoke of having a vision, and said destiny, not luck, would allow him to prevail, still believing he could save the home.

The structures remain there to this day but are so far from the shore due to changing shoreline, that any attempt at saving them has probably long been lost.

Resource
Coastal Breeze News

Cape Romano Dome House - Photo by Marci Seamples, 2013
Photo Credit: Marci Seamples

15 Comments

  1. I’ve been fishing down around Cape Romano for about 17 years now and I’ve watched the Dome house go from being high and dry to being out in the Gulf. All the other houses that were out there were blown away during a hurricane (I can’t remember which one). It really would be nice to see someone rebuild the Dome house.

  2. These seem really cool. Why not tow em out into the ocean and use them as a diving destination. Seems like an awesome marine habitate and potential marine science study site

  3. I like Martin White’s idea. Drag them out to sea. Perfect.

  4. Why don’t Collier County move the Dome houses to a more safe place. Clean them up and have guided tours to make their money back. It’s a shame to let them just rot out their. We took a boat trip by their yesterday. I would pay to take a tour of completed buildings. Maybe have a picnic on the the grounds. Over the years they would make your money back. Plus!

  5. My friend’s father was friends with the owner and in 1990 when I was 10 years old, we got to stay there for a weekend! It was so amazing! We grilled out on the porch, watched Pretty Woman over and over on Satellite TV, slept in sleeping bags in the expansive living room. It was so awesome. We explored the pyramid shaped house next door that had enclosures outside where emus used to be kept. The last time I visited Cape Romano, it made me so said to see it sinking into the sea. It was truly an amazing structure and I feel so honored to have stayed there when it was in its prime.

  6. I actually went there two days before Katrina. it was a shell collecting trip. I was about 4 or so. I walked around the house as it was still on dry land and the water was about 20 feet away. I collected some shells around the place but my parents wouldn’t let me go under the dome because there was a bunch of broken glass. We went back home to Georgia the next day. Then Katrina hit.

  7. It was an amazing adventure! We loved every day of the years we lived in Seascape. We had all of the conveniences of modern living–Tv, telephone, air conditioning, solar water heaters ftom Israel , special refrigerator and freezer from California and the many other things my husband, Bob Lee , thought of before starting to build. How wonderful it was to live in such beautiful surroundings, and to realize that there are so many people who appreciate having seen it in their prime and who feel sad to know it will soon be just a memory.

    • Must be very sad to see it now! I was born just North & I believe w/ all my heart those new owners could have renovated it & should have been allowed! But I know all too well the how government works & should show an interest in historical Florida, instead of pandering to the people who are implants & most not very nice

  8. These aerials of the dome house were taken on July 17, 2015. Watch at: https://youtu.be/UxFH2AWCD_o

    • Wonderful video! Thoroughly enjoyed! As many times as we had visited 10,000 Islands, we never knew these were here. Vacationed in Fort Myers many years. A reason to return!

  9. Its such a very sad thought that another piece of history is almost gone. I was born and raised in Naples and always have loved seeing the Dome home. I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to live there. I love looking at the pictures of what it looked like back in the day and thinking, it sure was like living in heaven on earth!! Mr Lee had and Awesome idea, I only wish they could be saved

  10. Pompano fished around that area back when he started the domes we stayed at the Currie shack around the bend it was on stilts and no lock anyone could stay there, O the good ole days!

  11. It’s really sad that many historic buildings are no longer being preserved anymore.
    Sad,sad times we are living in. Pretty soon the youngsters won’t have anything to look back on the neat things we enjoyed.
    SAD SAD THING..