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Cape Romano Dome Home

The Dome Home of Southwest Florida have long been a point of interest for residents and visitors alike. And how could it not be? The (almost) totally unique building now stands alone more than 5 miles south of the southernmost point of Marco Island. Sticking out of the surf like several sore thumbs, the domes just beg to be explored—so that’s just what we did.  

For some time, the Cape Romano Dome Home were shrouded in mystery. Rumors stretched from extraterrestrial origins to machine-gun protected apocalyptic shacks, which of course all of which turned out to be wildly off base. The actual story is slightly less interesting, but no less ambitious. Thanks in large part to Coastal Breeze News for uncovering many details of the story from Janet Maples, the daughter of the former owners, the history of the Dome Home has become much clearer.

The quick and dirty timeline:

         1978-79 - Bob Lee and his wife bought several properties on Cape Romano with plans to build a vacation home

         1980-1982 - Using lessons learned from a still standing prototype on the family land in Tennessee, Bob built the fully self sustaining solar powered “hurricane proof” house (on what used to be land 100 yards from the water)

         1983 - The Lee family sells the house, but buys it back in 1987

         Early 1990’s - The Lee family used the Dome Home as their primary residence. They had 2 neighbors as well, one of which even kept horses and emus.

         1992 – Hurricane Andrew hits, but the storm only causes minimal damage.

         1993 – Grandson Mike Morgan and Bob and Margaret Lee remodeled the interior after the storm but gave it up shortly thereafter.

         2005 – House and land is bought by John Totso and family of Naples, FL with plans to renovate

         2005 – Hurricane Wilma hits and does considerable damage, particularly through erosion of the surrounding beach. Look carefully and you can see shells lodged in the side of the buildings, allegedly from the strong winds brought by Wilma. 

         2007 – Department of Environmental protection and Collier County Code Enforcement notify Totso family that the structure must be removed or they will face hefty fines

         2009 – an ongoing court case ends poorly for the Totso family as Collier County imposes a $187,000 fine for not removing the buildings

2013 – With no help on the horizon, the dome homes are slowly fading away into the sea. Despite what was once a long walk to get to the water, the homes now sit in more than 6 feet of water. 

How to get there

Depending on your aquatic vessel availability, Cape Romano is fairly easy to get to from either Marco Island or from Goodland. Marked channels will take you more or less right by Cape Romano, or at least to open water where you can navigate to Cape Romano without worry of running around in the shallow backwaters of the Gulf Coast. With a boat on a trailer, I recommend putting in from Goodland Boating Park which is about as close as you can get—roughly 6 miles away. An $8 ramp fee won’t break the bank, and you can expect to use a reasonable amount of fuel running such a short distance.

If you are an experienced paddler, a canoe or kayak can stay safely in the backwater for most of the trip, but it is about an 8 mile paddle from the closest launch point. It can certainly be done in a day, but Cape Romano is also an excellent place to set up camp for the night!

If renting a boat, there are several boat and jet ski rentals out of Marco Island, but Walker’s Marine Coon Key Marina in Goodland seems to be the popular boat out on the water in those parts. With the Coon Key Marina being right next to the Goodland Boating Park, the directions would be nearly identical from either. Use caution around the passes, bays, and even off the beaches. There are shoals and oysters everywhere and the water can go from a safe depth of 10ft to 1 ft in just a few yards.


View Cape Romano Dome Home in a larger map

More great links:

·         Great article from Coastal Breeze News - http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2012/09/07/cape-romano-uncovered/

·         Cape Romano Facebook page with many images not found anywhere else - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cape-Romano/138420742897809

·         Naples Daily News Article and photos from just before the hefty fines of 2009 - http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2009/nov/06/owner-looks-resurrect-dome-home-cape-romano/

·         #9 on the list of 31 Haunting Images of Abandoned Place - http://www.boredpanda.com/abandoned-places/

·         #3 on the list of Most Beautiful Abandoned Places - http://imgur.com/a/D9iDC

·         Article about the equally interesting pyramid house, complete with horses and emus, on Cape Romano - http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2012/10/18/the-pyramid-of-cape-romano/

 

 

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