Cape Romano Dome House: Florida’s Concrete Tropical Igloos

According to his family, oil producer Bob Lee was an inventive, innovative man who was forever taking on new projects and testing out novel ideas. In the late 70s, Bob Lee decided to build a distinctive dome-shaped vacation home on Morgan Island in Florida. Bob Lee was committed to making his eye-catching retreat sustainable and hurricane proof. His property included solar panels, a system which collected rainwater for bathing and other household tasks, and an intricate mechanism which retrieved logs and placed them in the fireplace.

Bob Lee believed that buildings which contained sharp corners featured ample “wasted space” so he opted to build a structure with rounded edges which resembled an igloo. The rounded design of Bob Lee’s vacation home—which featured 6 separate domes—proved to be exceptionally resistant to hurricane damage. The only trouble was that many locals had difficulty accepting the unusual dome-shaped structure.

Many Floridians believed that the domes were home to evil spirits, aliens, or numerous elicit activities. The truth was much less sensational. Bob Lee and family enjoyed peacefully fishing, collecting seashells, or simply watching the waves roll in.

Over time, erosion degraded the land surrounding Bob Lee’s home to such a degree that his distinctive vacation retreat eventually became known as the Cape Romano Dome House because it was literally out at sea. After Bob Lee’s death, an investor named John Tosto attempted to restore the dome house to its former glory. Sadly, several logistical hurdles have made the restoration process nearly impossible. In 2013, a snorkeler noted that the steadily sinking ruins of the domes were home to a magnificent reef which was teeming with many different varieties of sea life. Perhaps Bob Lee created the ultimate sustainable property by building a structure which is seamlessly merging with nature in its final days.

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