The photo to the right is of one of the 16 paintings included in my Florida Floats My Boat series. It depicts a colorful little home built on stilts in the middle of sea green waters with some beach houses in the distance. It’s not a painting of the famous Cape Romano come home, but it does make you think about what it would be like to stay in a place with all the comforts of home that’s smack dab in the middle of the sea.
In case you haven’t heard of the Cape Romano dome home, it’s a pretty neat place – as the pictures here illustrate. Their bizarre look fed the rumor mill for many years. Lots of folks of Marco Island believed they were a mafia safe haven, heavily guarded by sentries with machine guns. Others said they belonged to a cult. My favorite is that they were left behind by ETs.
They were actually built by an oil guy by the name of Bob Lee in 1980. But Bob didn’t start out building the dome house in the water. Four decades ago, there was land underneath the structures, which were solar powered and self-sustaining. So what happened? Hurricanes and beach erosion.
Because of their unique shape, the home actually weathered Hurricane Andrew pretty well. Oh, the house suffered a little water damage because rainwater got in due to some broken windows. But the other homes along the coastline didn’t fare as well. Instead of rebuilding, their owners abandoned them one after the other leaving Bob’s dome home all alone.
Hurricane Charley didn’t do much damage either. The storm’s outer edges passed miles from the dome home on its way to Sanibel, Captiva and Punta Gorda. But the domes took a direct hit from Hurricane Wilma in 2005. That storm merged with a cold front moving down the peninsula and the backside of the storm was particularly strong. Not only did it do a fair degree of damage to the domes, it washed away a great deal of the coastline, leaving the structures standing on stilts on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.
With no way to reclaim the lost coastline, Collier County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ordered the dome house to be torn down and removed. The new owners simply walked away and now, after a decade of incessant beach erosion, yu can only reach the dome home by boat nowadays.
I hear that there are plans afoot to tear the structure down and use the remnants to make an artificial reef somewhere. Right now, they’ve been claimed by a family of monster snook. But while there’s still time, lots of folks go out to the site by boat, waverunner and kayaks, plus it’s on the list of stops of many boat tours through the 10,000 Islands.