When Amy Hoffman walked through the door of 127 Landing Lane in Baiting Hollow during a recent open house, she became so emotional she could hardly speak. As the 45-year-old Manorville resident looked around the high-ceiling living room, memories of the few years she and her sisters spent there as teens came rushing back.
For Hoffman's father, Kenneth Powell, the home was the culmination of a lifelong dream.
In 1982, Powell figured he had built enough traditional homes during his years in construction and decided to do something different. He designed and -- with some assistance from relatives and friends -- built a geodesic dome. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom structure, along with a connected second dome that Powell also built, came on the market earlier this year for $799,000.
A geodesic dome is a semi-spherical structure made up of many triangles. U.S. inventor Buckminster Fuller has been credited with popularizing the structure, starting in the 1950s. According to the Buckminster Fuller Institute, domes are less expensive to build and are more energy efficient because they enclose the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area.
Amy's sister, Karen Tomlinson, recalls that when they were growing up in a traditional house in Holbrook, Powell created a large model with dowels and connecting pieces in the living room.
"I remember him lying under it, and he said, 'One day, I'm going to build a house like that,' " says Tomlinson, 48, who lives in West Islip.
The sisters say he was spurred on after meeting his second wife, Loretta, who had built her dream by starting her own travel business, organizing special cruises for people who had to undergo dialysis. He drew up a set of blueprints for the cedar-shingled structure, which when built became 27 feet tall and 45 feet wide. There's a rectangular extension for the kitchen, which was remodeled by the third owners, whose children are selling the home.
Powell's daughters, including Tomlinson's sister and Hoffman's sister, Kim Rada, helped with the construction along with Loretta's daughter and son, hauling large cinder blocks to the spot for the foundation that Powell had plotted out in his own way -- the blueprints note that one side is 37 feet and 4 inches from the "nail in the tree to the center."
The dome is made out of 2-by-6-inch boards nailed into triangular frames and fitted together, then insulated and covered in Sheetrock with a stucco finish on the inside. The original front door, which is no longer there, was handmade of solid oak with a beveled glass panel by Powell's father, then a retired cabinetmaker living in New Mexico. Hoffman and her stepsister Candace Carrabus accompanied the Powells on the cross-country trip in a motor home to pick up the door.
Much of the time, Powell worked alone, and the sisters love to bring up the pre-cellphone-era story of the telephone that Powell installed on one of the trees on the property, connecting it directly to the overhead phone lines. He finished the inside while he and Loretta lived in the house, putting in all 700 mahogany pegs in the pine floorboards and installing a handmade, polished fir staircase to the second-floor balcony. The master bedroom upstairs still has the closets that Powell built into the walls.
In 1985, the Powells moved to Florida to be closer to the hub of their busy travel business. "Even for the short amount of time they lived in it, they loved it," Tomlinson says.
After selling the house, Powell ended up returning to build a second dome for the new owners, this time using a geodesic dome kit. That structure is connected to the original dome by a windowed garden room and serves as an entertaining space, with a bar and fireplace, as well as a third en suite bedroom. Outside on the 1-acre wooded property is an in-ground pool and hot tub, also installed after the Powells moved.
Loretta died in 2007, and Kenneth died the following year.
Ann Weiser of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, who is listing the house, says people who view it are surprised once they get past the unusual facade.
"When they first walk in, it's 'Wow,' because you don't realize how much space and light you're going to have," Weiser says.
WHERE: 127 Landing Lane, Baiting Hollow
LOT SIZE: 1 acre
ASKING PRICE: $799,000
OTHER FEATURES: Pool, hot tub
LISTING AGENT: Ann Weiser, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 631-477-0013
LI IS HOME TO DOMES:
The geodesic dome that Kenneth Powell built in the early 1980s may be unusual, but it's not the only one on Long Island -- or, for that matter, in Baiting Hollow. Kevin Shea, a retired New York City firefighter, built his dome house from a kit sold by a company called EconOdome, completing it in 2005.
"I wanted a home that I could actually build myself that was energy efficient," Shea says.
Dubbed the Long Island Green Dome, the structure is 70 feet in diameter and 44 feet high. While geodesic domes in general are considered more energy efficient because the lower surface area per unit of volume means less exposure to cold in the winter and heat in the summer, Shea added more environmentally friendly features: Electricity is provided by solar and wind power generators and 16 solar heat gain windows and vents that help regulate the interior temperature. There is one LED lighting fixture that lights the entire dome.
Outside is a terraced garden made with recycled tires donated by auto repair shops. The property is considered an official wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
Shea says he's still not finished with the home and is always looking to make it more energy efficient, including installing a system that would allow him to control the home from anywhere in the world.