Real Estate

Cape Romano's Abandoned Dome Homes Are a Snapshot of Florida's Possible Future

Just beyond Florida's Ten Thousand Islands in Cape Romano sits a collection of odd white-domed structures in the middle of the water. They look like Miami's Stiltsville meets some postapocalyptic sci-fi movie. The uninformed have spread a lot of rumors about what the domes could possibly have been: abandoned cult headquarters, evidence of ancient aliens, the scene of some ghastly crime, or a failed eco-experiment in living at sea.

The truth is much more mundane, abeit still scary. The domes once sat on land and were the vacation home of an oil magnate, but they were abandoned in the '90s and have since been claimed by the sea. They paint a picture of what might eventually happen to much of Florida if nothing is done about rising sea levels and the attendant threat that hurricanes and beach erosion pose to the state's coastline.

See also: Study: Miami Beach Will Experience 45 Floods a Year by 2030, 260 by 2045

After striking it rich as an oil producer, a Tennessee man named Bob Lee soon began passing his time by planning his dream vacation home. He selected a remote island just southwest of Naples and dreamed up ideas for an eco-friendly series of structures that would suit the island. After building a prototype on his land in Tennessee, he set to work in 1980 and erected the homes.

"Building it was the fun part for my dad, but he also loved the seclusion of living on the island -- fishing, shelling, and watching the weather," his daughter Janet Maples tells the Coastal Breeze News.

The home's domed structure was meant to help resist hurricane-strength winds while also helping to collect rainwater for bathing and cleaning.

"The house was totally self-sustaining," grandson Mike Morang tells the paper. "He had several solar panels for power, along with backup generators if it was cloudy for several days."

The domes even once had an equally strange neighbor on the island: a wooden pyramid home that succumbed to Hurricane Andrew and has since been demolished.

The ownership of the Dome Homes changed hands a few times, but they have not been occupied since the '90s. Changing sands and rising tides have now left the homes creeping into the Gulf of Mexico.


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Kyle Munzenrieder