The colossal dome rising from the ground on Hamilton Drive in northern Overland Park has a tendency to provoke some double takes.
Is that…an enclosed tennis court? A storage facility?
In fact, the dome is what Bob Campbell envisioned as a great place for he and his wife Lolly to spend their golden years when they were planning for retirement in the mid-1960s.
And it remains a unique architectural fixture in northeast Johnson County a half a century later.
Originally from south-Texas, the couple planned to retire on the Gulf Coast. When they didn’t have the heart to leave Kansas City, Campbell drew up the plans for the dome — a design that included elements intended to bring the coast to them.
The dome sits over a U-shaped, three-bedroom house with a built-in garage. A front courtyard, intended to mimic the Gulf of Mexico, is filled with vegetation and a pool, creating a warm, humid climate.
Completed in 1967, after 18-months of construction, the “dome home” is where the couple’s son, Mark Campbell, and his brother spent their teenage years.
Mark Campbell, a structural engineer like his father, remembers holding the steel beams when his dad built the steel shell of the dome, while a carpentry crew built the traditional sections and a roofing company completed the roof and deck.
“It was a great place to grow up,” said Mark Campbell. “We even had some swimming parties during Christmas break, which was pretty cool.”
A spot for family gatherings
On sunny days, light streams into the courtyard which is lush with plants and trees around the pool. The unique design of the home keeps the courtyard warm in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Bob Campbell came up for the idea of the dome-shaped house when he was working with an architect in Salina who liked to build schools with domes because they contain more space using less material.
At the time, the Campbells lived across the street from where the dome now stands. Before he started the project, Bob Campbell gathered his neighbors to tell them about his plans for the new house. Mark Campbell remembers the neighbors being very supportive.
“I admire it, it’s structurally a good shape,” Mark Campbell said. “And, it is nice to be able to raise real plants.”
The dome’s distinctive qualities also include a floor design in the courtyard that imitates a sun dial, and the wall dividing the living space from the courtyard, descends into the floor to combine the two spaces for larger gatherings.
When Bob and Lolly Campbell passed away, Mark and his brother inherited the home. His brother wanted to sell it, but Mark took ownership of the home, not wanting the unique structure to leave the family.
Mark and his wife, Sandy Campbell, live in the house next door to the dome, and they utilize the its courtyard for family Christmases and gatherings.
Mark Campbell’s daughter, along with her husband and Campbell’s eighth grandchild are planning to stay in the dome later this year and help Campbell refurbish the home.
In the future, the Campbells might make the dome available as an Airbnb vacation rental, but Mark Campbell says they would still reserve some time for family events in the courtyard.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” Campbell said.