Cape Romano Dome House: Florida’s Landmark That Was Destroyed by Hurricane Ian

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Built. Abandoned. Destroyed. That is the short but exciting story of what was once a famous landmark in Florida: the Cape Romano Dome House. Built in 1982, the unique dome-shaped house was abandoned in 2009 before Hurricane Ian finally destroyed it. As we go down memory lane, here is what you need to know about the building’s developer, why it assumed a dome shape, the reason for abandonment, and its eventual destruction.

The History of Cape Romano Dome House

The Cape Romano Dome House was located about 300 feet (91 meters) offshore from Cape Romano Island, south of Marco Island, in the Ten Thousand Islands of Collier County, Florida. Built by Bob Lee, a retired independent oil producer, in 1982, the Cape Romano Dome House consisted of six dome-shaped modules sitting on stilts.

Since its construction, the landmark building changed ownership several times, with the state of Florida being the latest owner before it was destroyed by natural calamities. Bob Lee first sold the building two years after its construction to another family. However, the new owners couldn’t keep up with their payments, so Lee repossessed it in 1987.

Even though the Lees had made Cape Romano Dome House their primary home after its repossession, they had to sell it again in 2004. The water levels were quickly rising, so Lee sold the building to John Tosto, a Naples resident, for a reported $300,000.

To address the rising water problem, the new owner intended to construct a sea wall, hoping to end the erosion of the concrete pillar. However, Tosto decided against the plan and instead hoped to move the entire house to a higher piece of land in the region using a crane.

Why Was Cape Romano Dome House Abandoned?

John Tosto’s plan to move the house to a higher piece of land was projected to take about four months after he purchased it from Bob Lee. Unfortunately, Hurricane Wilma struck, eroded the coastline, and destabilized the building’s foundation before he could actualize his plan.

Cape Romano Dome House was abandoned in 2009 after all its foundational pillars were permanently underwater; only fishermen and teenagers could occasionally visit. Even before then, the Collier County Code Enforcement Board had ordered the demolition of the structure, and John Tosto was heavily fined for defying the orders.

What Happened to the Cape Romano Dome House?

 

While John Tosto did not willingly demolish the house, Hurricane Irma hit it in September 2017, partially destroying it. In 2022, Cape Romano Dome House’s fate was sealed when Hurricane Ian wiped it out completely. What started as a vacation home fitted with refrigerators and a hot tub was gone. Today, only some pilings can occasionally be spotted above water.

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