A Dream becomes Reality
In 1992 when Harold Townsend, a firefighter with the Chicago Fire Department, vacationed in South Carolina, he had no idea he would find his dream home. But that’s just what happened. Sightseeing on Sullivan’s Island, Harold spotted the “Eye of the Storm,” a concrete dome that has survived several hurricanes virtually unscathed.
Harold was impressed. “Eye of the Storm” reminded him of ads he had seen in “Popular Mechanics” that talked about structures called Monolithic Domes. He decided to do some research and contacted the Monolithic Dome Institute.
By 2005, Harold had reviewed books, videos and information on this website and had attended two of our Conferences during which he met dome designer Jim Kaslik and dome shell builder Dan Sutterfield.
And the more Harold learned, the more convinced he grew that a Monolithic Dome home was what he wanted for his semi-retirement. He had personally seen what fire can do to wood or brick structures, and he was tired of the near-constant maintenance such buildings required.
Harold knew that a Monolithic Dome would make a secure home with few maintenance requirements. He also knew the dome could include an attractive, relaxing room for his second career as a Certified Foot Reflexologist. During his 30 years as a firefighter, Harold had completed courses and gained that certification.
So Harold began looking for a site to build on. His search took him to South Carolina, Tennessee and finally Missouri, where he fell in love with naturally enchanting Lake of the Ozarks. That lake runs for 92 miles between Bagnell Dam and Truman Dam, has more than 40 miles of unobstructed tributaries and 1,150 miles of shoreline. It was constructed as part of the Great Osage River Project, 1929 to 1931.
At Lake of the Ozarks, Harold purchased a homesite with about an acre of land, then contacted Jim Kaslik for a dome design, Dan Sutterfield to construct the shell and Jim Dale as General Contractor.
Despite many storms that postponed the start of the shell construction, in the months that followed Harold witnessed the construction of his dream home, a Monolithic Dome that he named the “Eye at the Lake.”
Its nearly 2,000 square feet encompass a loft that overlooks a great room with a kitchen, dining and family areas; a home theater; 2 bedrooms; 2 bathrooms; an office; a spa room with a portable spa; and a laundry area.
Surprise! Here’s a problem — and another — and another!
Harold knew a Monolithic Dome was a superior product, and he thought he had done his homework, so he was thoroughly unprepared for the frustrating problems he encountered.
“Nobody wanted to give me a loan to do the construction,” Harold said. “I checked with bank after bank. No luck. They didn’t know anything about Monolithic Domes, and even though I sent them literature and information, they didn’t want to know or to lend the money.”
Worrisome weeks after first starting his search, Harold heard about “Owners Builders Loan Service,” a company in Ann Arbor, Michigan that might be willing to finance the construction. He called them, found them willing and got the loan.
About the time the financing was taken care of and the foundation was poured, another problem reared its ugly head.
Officials told Harold that his foundation extended into the setback from the road — only a very few inches — but it still necessitated getting a variance.
In a March 2006 article titled, “Dome home reflects owner’s vision” and published in the “Lake Sun,” Jim Dale, Harold’s General Contractor, said, “The foundation was poured in the right spot, it was the road that was off.” Over the years, the road apparently had readjusted itself by several feet. Nevertheless, it was Harold’s problem and he had to get the variance.
Almost a year later, Harold moved in. While he’s happy with his “Eye at the Lake” he’s finding the area not what he expected. “It’s designed to attract tourists,” he said. “People come here to vacation and go fishing. They have vacation homes and condos here. So everything costs more here.”
In addition to an unexpected, higher cost-of-living, Harold now knows that the area is only populated heavily during vacation times. Consequently, to date, Harold has not been able to get his Foot Reflexology business started — a vital part of his retirement plan.
He said that he will continue working at it and hoping things will begin going his way.
Told of Harold’s frustrations and disappointment, David South, Monolithic’s president, said, "When it comes to relocating and building, you just can’t do too much research.
“I would advise anyone planning to live and work — even part-time — in a new area to really, really check it out. It’s a good idea to live there, during various seasons, and really get to know the locale, its people and their ways before committing to anything.
“A few years ago,” David recalled, “a lady stopped by on her way to Australia ‘to set up a bed and breakfast.’ She had never been there but was sure it was what she wanted to do. My advice was to rent for one year before investing. It turned out that her moving plans would have been a horrible mistake. Fortunately, she was able to move back to the U.S. with her money intact. Renting is a good option in some cases.”