The headquarters of a bizarre cult or left behind by a group of extra terrestrials? Origins of the abandoned dome home of Cape Romano near Marco Island, Florida have confounded many over the years.
But the real story of the eccentric house is a lot less outlandish.
The bubble-like structures were constructed by retired independent oil producer Bob Lee in 1980 as a vacation home. For Lee, who has since passed, it was a fun do-it-yourself project.
In a 2012 interview with the Coastal Breeze News, Lee’s daughter Janet Maples recalled her father’s passion for inventing things. “He invented a heat source for under the floors of our house and had an invention that would bring logs in and drop them on the fireplace that came through the wall of our den. Kids loved him. He was just fun to be around; a really adventurous guy way before his time.”
The house was also ahead of its time. Lee made the home to be completely self-sufficient. Solar panels provided electricity to the 2,400 square-foot structure which powered conveniences like a satellite television and a hot tub.
Even the unique shape of the house had a bigger purpose. Lee’s grandson Mike Morgan told the newspaper that rainwater would run off the domes and into a specially-designed gutter system. The water was fed into a 23,000 gallon cistern under the center dome. “The water would run through filters and that’s what we would use for showers and dishwashing; things like that.”
The house was completed in 1982. Lee and his family enjoyed the dome house two years before selling it. The family took it over again a few years later when the new owners got into financial trouble. The Lees remodeled the interior and kept the home until 1993 when it was abandoned for good.
Mother Nature has not been kind to the structure. Hurricanes and tropical storms have battered the house over the years and blown out the glass windows. Over time, the Gulf of Mexico has reclaimed the land on which it sat through erosion.
The domes are now in the middle of the water and a curious site for those who don’t know their backstory. They’ve become fodder for urban legend and a place of intrigue for urban explorers. Graffiti artists have left their mark on this architectural gem.
In 2007, officials with the Department of Environmental Protection ordered the domes removed. But nearly a decade later, they still stand.
While not as mysterious as they once were (thanks to information being so readily available online), the Cape Romano Domes still spark conversation, and the debate continues about what their future should be. Sadly, they won’t last much longer because of human involvement, the effects of nature or both. But their memory will continue to live on through these videos that wonderfully document their existence.