Local News

Under the Dome

By Stephen Seitz

CHESTER – When most people picture a home in Vermont, what often comes to mind is a farmhouse, or a stately Victorian structure, not a geodesic dome.

But Roberta Piper has one in Chester, and it’s for sale.

“It’s just too much for one person,” Piper explained when asked why she has put it on the market. Piper lives alone.

She and her late husband Bill moved from Connecticut to Chester in the late 1980s, and he built the dome on a secluded woodlot in a subdivision on the eastern side of town.

Piper was researching hippie culture for her dissertation and came upon the geodesic dome concept.

“He got interested,” Piper said of her husband.

“We had a daughter in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and we noticed a dome builder there, the Daystar Shelter Corporation. A lot of young people were building them in order to live off the land. They took us to see one and said, ‘This guy built it like a clock.’ It was out there in the middle of the prairie. There wasn’t a tree around,” she continued.

“We finally sold our house in Connecticut and came here. We lived in a little trailer during construction. It came in pieces, color-coded to put the triangles together properly. We did the garage first, then the main house. It took about two and a half, three years to complete,” she said.

Geodesic domes are different from standard forms of home construction. They were conceived by R. Buckminster Fuller, the famous 20th century inventor. According to the Fuller Institute, “Fuller discovered that if a spherical structure was created from triangles, it would have unparalleled strength … The spherical structure of a dome is one of the most efficient interior atmospheres for human dwellings because air and energy are allowed to circulate without obstruction. This enables heating and cooling to occur naturally. Geodesic shelters have been built all around the world in different climates and temperatures and still they have proven to be the most efficient human shelter one can find.”

As Piper described, their dome arrived in color-coded sections which had to be placed precisely together. The interior is striking not only for its efficient use of space, but also because it takes full advantage of natural light. In the Piper dome, there is a small alcove in the cupola, plenty of living space, and even a separate apartment in the basement.

According to Joan Morey of Barrett & Valley Associates, the real estate broker handling the property, some potential buyers are at first hesitant about the dome’s futuristic appearance.

“One of the difficulties is when they come to take a look, it’s hard for some to take the leap and just go in. But once you’re inside you just don’t want to go,” Morey said.

“A young man from the electrical company came out here and when he saw this he said, ‘Take me to your leader,’” Piper said with a laugh.

Jayne Sommer is a housing design consultant helping Piper make the home ready for display to potential buyers. She said, “Everyone who walks in here just starts smiling,” she said. “They don’t always smile. When my husband saw this, he said, ‘If this backed up to the river, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.’”

Piper said she doesn’t yet know what she’ll do when the dome is sold. She has 10 children, some living on the West Coast and some in Connecticut.

“I don’t know if I’m staying,” she said. “I will miss this for a while.”

Sommer said working on the dome with Piper is “a delight. The dome has the most beautiful bones. I go to a lot of homes which don’t have as beautiful a shell to work with. “

The three bedroom, three bath home is currently listed for $229,000. For further information on the property, call Morey at 802-384-2188 or visit www.barrettandvalley.com.

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