10 Places to Live a Weird and Wonderful Life
Suburban tract homes be damned, America still has a healthy supply of homes that make you go “hmm,” and TopTenRealEstateDeals.com has compiled a list of some real doozies called The Top 10 Weird but Wonderful Homes.
These are homes with stories to tell and questions to answer—there’s intrigue and mystery. Two of these homes are built in honor of a loved one. Some of them are open to the public, some are private homes, and most of these in the list are even for sale. Multiple homes on the list are energy efficient and even off the grid. Others are just off the wall, and some of those walls are constructed from some pretty unusual materials. Click on to see ten of the weirdest, most wonderful homes in America.
By Colleen KanePosted 1 Feb 2011
10. Earthship Home
Location: Columbus, New Mexico
Bed: 1 Bath:1 Sq. ft: 200
Claim to Fame: A holdover from hippie culture in a 1970s intentional community
About: Earthship homes, though a 70s throwback, are still found in all 50 states and internationally, including many in the Southwest like this one. These dwellings were green before most people talked about carbon footprints, constructed from indigenous and recycled materials like tires and cans. They function off the normal grid by catching rain water for drinking and bathing and placing widows, doors and walls for optimal lighting, heating, and cooling.
This earthship home follows the guidelines of architect and pioneer Michael Reynolds and was designed and built by artist Eric Warman, who incorporated unique elements. It is located in the City of the Sun, a community founded in 1971 for people of varying faiths and spiritual paths.
9. Castle on The Bay
Location: San Francisco, California
Bed: 4 Bath: 2 Sq ft: 1436
Claim to Fame: Formerly the Albion Ale & Porter Brewery until Prohibition shut it down.
About: There are several “castles” in this list of homes, and this residence has a six-story tower and castle ruins on the property, but also has a history as a brewery built in 1870, which operated until 1919. For those more interested in continuing that brewing legacy, underground springs supply 10,000 gallons of fresh water a day, held in canals in underground caves, and the sale price includes the water rights and rights to the Albion Ale and Porter Brewry name.
Located just across the street from the San Francisco Bay, the Albion Castle is also an historic landmark. It’s restored with antique cabinetry and tiles, and polished slate countertops in the kitchen, as well as a stone fireplace and natural woodwork.
8. The Dune House
Location: Atlantic Beach, Florida
Bed: 2 Bath: 2 Sq. ft: 1500
Claim to Fame: It’s a disco-era house in a dune!
About: This design by architect William Morgan is ensconced within the earth, forming two double-height apartments carved into a sand dune. The apartments are entered at street level and a common stair leads to the upper floor’s entryway, bedroom and bath. On the main lower floor, the living, dining and kitchen with mostly built-in furniture open oceanside to a covered terrace at beach level.
The building was constructed in 1975 using swimming pool technology, a gunite-concrete shell anchored to a cast concrete floor. It’s also one of the original green roofs, as it’s topped by a mantle of earth stabilized by native landscaping which helps to maintain a 70-degree temperature inside.
7. Shangri-La Dome Home
Location: Aguilar, Colorado
Bed: 6 Bath: 2 Sq. ft: 4413
Claim to Fame: An ultra-efficient fireplace heats the home to nearly 70 even in sub-freezing temperatures.
About: Eight interconnected domes comprise this two-level residence on 40 acres of land. This peaceful property has 360-degree mountain, valley, and creek views at 6700 feet altitude. It has pine nut trees and a large meadow that is perfect for horses. And it’s green, but of course, energy efficient and a solar-powered well is the home’s water source.
If it ever gets too quiet at this retreat, the domes' rounded walls provide superior sound quality, a boon for the home's theater dome on the main level. It also has two interior courtyards and an outbuilding serves as a guesthouse or office.
6. Mystery Castle
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Price: Not on the market
Claim to Fame: Built by a man who abandoned his family and disappeared after learning he had tuberculosis
About: Boyce Luther Gulley left his Seattle office in 1927 and was not heard of until 3 years later in the hills south of Phoenix. There he spent the last 15 years of his life creating a three-story, 18-room mansion crenellated parapets, turrets, and a tower. Gulley constructed the castle from found and cheap materials like native stone and adobe bound by a mortar of sand, cement, calcium, and goat's milk. The house’s curious features include petroglyphs, automobile parts, Depression glass dishes as transoms, windows made from Gulley’s Stutz Bearcat, and the Bearcat’s windshield as a wall panel.
Gulley built stairs over a boulder so as not to disturb the landscape, and for the same reason he hauled natural materials from over a mile away. The wife and daughter he abandoned moved in after Gulley’s death in 1945, and began conducting tours. Daughter Mary Lou Gulley just died herself in November 2010.
5. The Cunningham Domes
Location: Patagonia, Arizona
Bed: 3 Bath: 3 Sq. ft: 1,667
Claim to Fame: Built by the inventor of the drawstring clamp and the Gerry Kiddie Carrier.
About: This subterranean home situated on over 40 acres of high desert was built by inventor Gerry Cunningham, who designed the free-form concrete domes like upside-down ferro-cement boat hulls.
The buried domes are apocalypse-ready, as the residence is completely off-grid, using solar power for electricity and wind to pump the abundant fresh well water. Food is kept cool in a small pantry burrowed further into the hillside. As a nod to aesthetics, colored glass in the dome, shines color across the walls and floor on sunny days.
4. Minnesota Foam Home
Location: Minnetrista, Minnesota
Bed: 2 Bath: 3 Sq. ft: 4080
Claim to Fame: Also known as Hobbit House, Flintstones Home, and Mushroom House
About: When architect Winslow Wedin built his house in 1969 from polyurethane spray foam, chicken wire and 2 x 2s, his otherworldly dwelling was cheap, solid, and very energy efficient. It could have been the home of the future. So what happened? Banks didn’t want to make a loan on a home made of foam.
Wedin’s daughter Jayme Littlejohn, who helped build the home and led guided tours as a teenager, recalls winter days when they didn't need heat because the sun kept the home warm enough. The foam home has survived record snowfalls, record cold, record heat, and even took a direct lightening hit. They sure don’t make ’em like they did that one time.
3. Coral Castle
Location: Miami, Florida
Price: Not on the market
Claim to Fame: Billy Idol’s 1986 hit “Sweet Sixteen” was a tribute to the Coral Castle and its creator, and the video was shot at the Castle.
About: Ed Leedskalnin spent 28 years secretly working alone, mostly at night, with just hand tools to move 1100 tons of coral to construct this monument to the woman who jilted him the night before their wedding. It remains a mystery how he accomplished the feat. Since no one ever witnessed the construction, some have speculated that Leedskalnin had supernatural powers. Leedskalnin himself claimed to know the secrets used to build the ancient Pyramids.
Coral Castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and is now a museum listed under its original name of Rock Gate Park.
2. Bioscleave House Life Extending Villa
Location: East Hampton, New York
Bed: 3 Bath: 2 Sq ft: 3,700
Claim to Fame: The first U.S. example of reversible destiny architecture, or “architecture against death”
About: This house was designed with the goal that the occupants be disoriented, uncomfortable, and thrown off balance, because, the thought goes, when you get comfortable, death is not far behind. The thinkers behind this “life-affirming environment” are the artist-poet-architect/ husband-and-wife team Arakawa and Madeline Gins, who said they decided not to die. This “life-affirming” was part of their plan to cheat the fate that awaits everyone else. Arakawa died in May of 2010.
Built as an extension to a 1964 A-frame house based on principles of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, Bioscleave House also comes with its own set of directions for use.
1. Hammargren Home of Nevada History
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Price: Not on the market
Claim to fame: Robin Leach called it “the most interesting home in the world.”
About: This residence is actually three houses that form a compound of curiosities. The first is a planetarium and celestial observatory in one-third scale model of a Mayan pyramid, the center house is a full-scale model replica of the “House of the Governor” at a Mayan site at Uxmal, and the third house is a “Mayan Revival Style” architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs in Hollywood.
The man living in Mayan style is Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, a neurosurgeon, former Nevada Lieutenant Governor and Honorary Consul to Belize. The houses contain thousands of oddities from 65 years of collecting unusual things like an iron lung, a Batmobile, a Liberace staircase and Bugsy Siegel's toilet, even a fancy Easter egg entryway that Liberace once used for an Easter performance. Also on the premises are an Apollo Spacecraft Capsule, a Space Shuttle replica, and a Stonehenge reproduction.
Jason Wakefield of Top Ten Real Estate Deals explains why he ranked this one the weirdest: "Just beyond Evel Knievel's Messerschmitt motorcyle under the garage, the doctor has an authentic Egyptian tomb where he is to be buried and become part of the museum. The museum features a full pulley system for opening and closing the sarcophagus. Other unique characteristics include a Clark Gable dummy jumping out of a plane over an authentic "Welcome to Reno" sign, a dolphin tank from the original MGM casino, and if you look out the right window you will see the back of a Space Shuttle replica. The home is as unique as the Nevada history it exemplifies."