Cape Romano Dome House
Written By: JASR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Looking at the Cape Romano Dome House, one can only imagine how beautiful it must have been when it was newly built.
Built in 1981, the Cape Romano Dome House is located on the southern tip of Marco Island on Cape Romano. The formerly stunning home is now decaying and slowly slipping into the ocean.
The origin of this home has been the topic of many debates. Some say it was the community home of a secret cult, while others say it was left behind by extraterrestrials – but this home was simply made by a retired oil producer and inventor named Bob Lee.
Lee had the idea that the house would be self-sufficient and eco-friendly when he started working on it in 1980. Lee’s daughter, Janet Maples, recalls how her father “loved inventing things.”
With its eco-friendly nature, the dome house used solar panels. Florida’s turbulent weather was also considered – allowing the home to withstand harsh hurricane winds. It only had little damage from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The home was completed in 1982. Two years later, Lee and his family sold the house. The owner of the house got into financial troubles – prompting the Lee family to reclaim the home in 1987.
Maples told Coastal Breeze about the stories she would hear about her childhood vacation home: “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.”
From a childhood vacation home, the house became a primary residence of Maples and Lee’s grandson, Mike Morgan, until 1993. The island already washed away other homes in the area by then.
Hurricane Andrew occurred in 1992, Luckily, it didn’t do much damage because of the home’s elevated and rounded structure. However, the family visited the house a lot less in the following years as the other homes on the coastline were harder hit by the storm and were abandoned one by one.
In 2005, the house was purchased by the John Tosto family just before Hurricane Wilma. The calamity caused some damage to the home and washed away some of the coastline.
They wanted to renovate the home and make it functional again. Tosto thought of relocating the home off state-owned lands. A crane would have been used to move the house and set it atop new concrete or steel pilings more than 50 feet from the high tide line and at least 25 feet away from wetlands.
However, in 2007, the Collier County Code Enforcement Board issued an order to demolish the structures. Tosto already invested $500,000 into the parcel, so he refused and was later fined for $187,000 in 2009.
The Cape Romano Dome House remains but is now far from the shore because of the changing shoreline. Part of the house also collapsed during Hurricane Irma on September 10, 2017.
It is now only accessible by boat and remains an interesting site for locals. The domes are now almost fully reclaimed by the sea, but sources say that locals sometimes fish off them.
“It would break Daddy’s heart to see it like it is, but what he always said before he died was that it was worth it for the time he had it,” said Maples.
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