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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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City's only geodesic dome home for sale

Built by education professor

Mankato's only geodesic dome home, built in 1972 by former education faculty member David Hess, is for sale.

By Dan Linehan, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 12/24/2007]

Dome home exterior photoThere’s no place like ... Dome? For sale: Unique dome home offers light, view Richard Heller sounds a bit like a NASCAR announcer as he gives a tour of his home.

“You’ll find yourselves walking around in circles,” he says, “in this house.”

There are no interior rooms here, virtual­ly no place the light cannot reach as it streams in from windows carved into the sloping walls.

It’s the only dome house within the city limits (though not the only one in the area). Heller is trying to sell it and had to make some guesses when coming up with a start­ing price. He ended up with a per-square­foot figure, plus some for the garage he built, then an extra $50,000 for the je ne sais quoi, that certain something, of living in an architectural relic.

It may be a conversation starter, but the Lincoln Park home isn’t an attention grab­ber.

It’s barely visible, with a Lewis Street address but located up a hill behind some trees.

The view from the house — especially to the southwest, overlooking Rasmussen Woods — offers a great ridgeline perspec­tive.

The geodesic dome does come with a few oddities.

Voices tend to bounce around the high ceilings, which are covered with 10 inches of plaster in place of the exposed wooden beams it used to have.

And the curvature of the walls makes it difficult, though not impossible, to add on to a house like this.

From a distance, it looks like a half­sphere, but the walls actually are a series of polygons; triangles or hexagons and even a few trapezoids, depending on your per­spective.

Dome home interior photoThe Realtor selling the house, Rich Draheim, said a group that toured the home liked its use of space, perhaps questioning the notion that rectangle-shaped rooms are the best way to go.

Even so, “not everybody can appreciate it,” he said.

The home was built by late Minnesota State University education professor David Hess in 1972, Heller said.

Hess wanted a challenge and was always open to new ideas, said Mabel Hess, his wife, who now lives in San Diego. He got the idea to build a dome house from one of his students.

“He just wanted something different in his life to do, and this appealed to him,” she said. Plus, it was cheaper and more energy efficient than building a regular house.

Mabel was cool to the idea at first, but came to like the dome. Its uniqueness made it a good place to entertain, and she liked the seclusion offered by the trees, as well as the view.

There were challenges dur­ing the construction, includ­ing laying cement, installing the wiring and connecting the telephone, but they were all overcome. They lived in the house for four and a half years. David died in 1997.

 “I really loved the dome when I was in it,” she said.

And while it might make a better end to the story if Heller fell in love with the view or the quirkiness of it, the building came to him through a relative.

Some friends say he’s crazy for listing the home at $350,000, but he’s come to be proud of it and all the craft­smanship and remodeling work he put into it.

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