Where it’s at
For most Americans going to see a movie is no big deal! But what if you had to leave the country to do it? And what if you had to make sure you had valid, picture ID with you so you could re-enter the US?
Believe it or not, that’s exactly what going to a movie entails for Dianne and Bryan Bremner, two sixty-something retirees in Republic, Washington. That’s a remote community of less than 1000 residents, 113 miles north of Spokane but just 25 miles south of a border crossing into Canada.
Curlew Keep is there
Despite its small size, Republic, Washington has some unusual features — including Curlew Keep, the 2800-square-foot Monolithic Dome home that the Bremners planned and built.
According to Bryan, he and Dianne got interested in Monolithic Domes after observing another couple’s dome-building project. “Our friends Roberta and Michael Rice built a dome-home outside of Sandpoint, Idaho. We followed their experience from the time they signed their first papers to the present day,” he said, paused and then lightly added, “Like us, they’re a little strange too. They have a tower on the side of their dome that they use as an office.”
As soon as they started planning their Monolithic Dome home, the Bremners began documenting the process on their website.
Curlew Keep is a modified Torus — the first Monolithic Dome of this type to be built. But while considered a Torus, its design most closely resembles the Hyperion on page 103 of Dome Living: A Creative Guide For Planning Your Monolithic Dream Home.
The building process
Construction of Curlew Keep began with its Airform inflation and foam spraying in December 2001. Three years later, or just before Christmas 2004, the Bremners finally moved in. “Our locals don’t work in the winter,” Bryan said. “Everything — I mean everything — closes down.”
Those winter shut-downs accounted for some of the longer-than-usual construction time. Unfortunately, a more serious delay also occurred. Bryan developed a heart problem, staphaloccus aureus, that confined him to the hospital. For the next two months, Dianne halted their dome building and devoted herself to helping Bryan get well. On their website, Bryan talks about this experience and advises dome builders “to make some contingency plans for an unexpected absence for an extended period of time.”
Once Bryan recovered, he and Dianne got Curlew Keep to a moving-in point. “We’re still finishing up our house,” Bryan said. “Our loft is the last piece to be finished and we’re working on that now. We will use it primarily for storage. We have a lot of books, so part of it will be a library. Then there’s my computer stuff and everything else that needs to be stored. And let’s not forget the grandkids. They’ll love spending time up there.”
A comfortable, roomy interior
In addition to the loft, Curlew Keep sports three bedrooms; three bathrooms; a sunken living room; dining, kitchen and laundry areas; and a two-car, attached garage leading into an outdoor room.
It’s heated with an in-floor, radiant heat, geothermal system with a well-water heat pump. But the dome has no air conditioning or ceiling fans and the Bremners do not regret not installing either. “We don’t need them,” Bryan said. “We don’t have a lot of wind at night, but we get enough to get the dome really nice and cool just by opening the windows a little at night. And it stays comfortable all day, day in and day out.”
What’s in a name?
The Bremners named their Monolithic Dome Curlew Keep for a number of reasons. “First of all, we’re on Curlew Lake,” Bryan explained. “Secondly, the curlew is not a common bird. Actually, they’re very rare. I understand they’re very tasty — a bad decision on their part. Well, like the curlew, a dome is not common. We added ‘Keep’ to the name because the dome provides security, much like the innermost part or the keep of a castle.”
Republic’s other features
Besides Curlew Keep, tourists stop in Republic to visit its local cemetery with its breathtaking view that overlooks a valley, backed by spectacular mountains. The town also has an antiquated carousel that residents, including Bryan’s father and cousin, bought from a Seattle carnival in the 1950s. It’s one of only three such carousels in Washington, and it’s frequently rented for family and community celebrations.
And, of course, Republic has Curlew Keep. Responses to it, Bryan said, "Run the gamut. I’ve heard — nobody has ever told this directly to me but I’ve heard — that some passer-by once said, ’That’s the most awful, ugly thing I have ever seen.’ But the reaction we usually get goes something like this: ’That’s really interesting. Can I come in and see it?’
“When people do get inside,” Bryan concluded, “they are just amazed. Without exception, they are just amazed.”
To view more picture of the Bremner’s home you can visit his website.
This article was originally written and published in August 2005.