Marco Island’s Famous Dome Home Destroyed in Hurricane Ian

by Craig Garrett
The Domes of Cape Romano - stock photo

The Dome Home on Island was a legend among the 10,000 Islands. But Hurricane Ian destroyed this iconic home. It was the goal of Bob Lee, an oil entrepreneur with an engineering background. He created the prototype for the home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Lee designed and constructed a self-sustained home that was “hurricane proof,” recalled Brian Slager. He lived in the home as a caretaker for almost three years in the early 1990s. The walls, floors, and ceilings were all curved to deflect wind pressure, Fox Weather reports.

“He was a smart guy. Round shapes and round columns and round buildings do not have the resistance against wind as squared, flat ones do. So, absolutely it was designed to withstand the winds,” Slager explained. “What nobody calculated on was the fact that the water erosion would literally wash the sand out from underneath that place.” The home is situated on Cape Romano Island, just a stone’s throw away from Marco Island in Southwest Florida.

Demooy’s tour groups likened the home to Luke Skywalker’s domed house in “Star Wars.” It was erected in 1982 with solar panels, generators, and backup batteries. It also had a cistern to collect fresh water, and eventually a large satellite dish. The six-domed abode, which is remembered on the Facebook page, was futuristic and sci-fi looking. It was made of rebar and cement and sprayed with gunite, much like a swimming pool.

More on the History of the Dome Home

“There was air conditioning, there was television, every channel you could imagine at a time before everybody else had a lot of channels,” recalled Slager. “I jokingly referred to those as my Magnum P.I. days. I basically was taking care of a wealthy man’s estate when he was never there. [I} had the use of his cars and his boats and anything else.” Slager lived in a house on stilts that was 200 yards away from the water.

Hurricane Irma took out two domes in 2017, and Hurricane Ian completed the destruction. In the early 2000s, an owner attempted to save the building after numerous ownerships. However, the structure eventually ended up in the water as the shore eroded. In 2018, the county took ownership of Cape Romano and made the waters around it a protected marine area.

Thousands of boaters and kayakers visit the picturesque beaches and dome house annually. A group attempted to raise funds to sink the domes previously and create an underwater marine habitat but wasn’t successful. Hurricane Ian didn’t change the outcome. Above the waterline, only the top of one dome is visible at low tide. People will want to explore the remains of this structure and hear about its legendary history for years to come.