FARGO — Julia Winegar recalls driving past the strange, little house just off Main Avenue in Fargo and taking a good, long look.
"I wondered what it would look like on the inside, just like everyone else did," Winegar said.
She found out soon enough when she and husband, Ben, bought the geodesic dome house in March of 2017. They were looking for an investment property — something they could fix up themselves in their spare time and eventually rent or sell. It turned out to be a big undertaking.
"It needed a lot of work structurally, cosmetically. There was a lot of mold. There was no plumbing or electricity, and the floors were rotted through," Winegar said.
The Winegars also wanted to learn more about the unusual home they were dedicating their blood, sweat and tears to. They learned through neighbors — and a little research — that the home was built in 1971, right as the geodesic dome house trend was peaking in popularity. The house design was patented by futurist architect Richard Buckminster Fuller in 1957, but it didn't really take off until 1966 when a commune in Colorado started putting up the domed structures. By the late '60s and early '70s, it spread beyond the flower children to suburbanites looking for fairly inexpensive, second homes they could put up on vacation properties. According to the New York Times, by 1971, 50,000 domed homes had been built around the world. Many of the homes were designed and built by owners, while others purchased geodesic dome kits.
The popularity of the domed homes might have come from the seemingly contradictory notions that you could have a structure that felt almost organic and back to nature with its mushroom shape and open-air feel, while simultaneously giving off a space-aged aluminum and plastic vibe more suited for The Jetsons.
The Winegars say one of the neighbors told them the builder of their home had wanted to put these homes up in the lakes country of Minnesota, but like domed house owners everywhere, they soon learned some of the domes didn't keep out moisture very well. So while they might have stood up to the air of a Colorado commune, the severe weather of the Northern Plains proved a little too tough for some domed homes.
That brings us to the condition of the Winegar's home in 2017 and the more than three-year battle to bring it up to snuff — a modern, state of the art, 4 bedroom, 2 bath, unusual, rounded home, now occupied by renters.
"Pretty much everything you see is new. It would have been easier just to tear the whole place down and build a new one," Ben Winegar said. "But it wouldn't have been the same. It wouldn't have had the same character."
The couple says the huge undertaking of excavating and putting in new drain tiles and walls came with unusual challenges not faced with a more-regular home.
"I will tell you, putting sheetrock and drywall up and around a dome is not very easy," Ben Winegar said with a laugh.
But as they say, 'Nothing good comes easy', and obviously that includes bringing a blast from the past around for another day.
Take a photo tour of Fargo's dome house at 122 22nd Street South by Forum photographer Dave Samson: