clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Giant Dome Almost Built To Cover Entire Vermont Town

New, 85 comments


During the late 1970's, the former mill town of Winooski, Vermont, population 7,000 and right next door to Burlington, went to the edge of the possible in urban planning. Winooski's population was fairly poor since the mills had closed down, and received the second-most federal assistance per capita of anywhere in the US, and was a testing ground for new housing policies. With the town's heating bill at something like $4 million, a group of young planners decided there wasn't enough emphasis being placed on energy conservation, and after a couple glasses of wine one night, thought they had the solution: a transparent dome over the entire town that would subsequently reduces everyone's heating hill by 90%.

While the city council initially considered the planned dome a nutjob idea, when the planners explained the potential for millions in federal HUD money, they quickly bought into it. The proposal quickly turned into a media sensation, and on-the-fly concepts about the domed town would roll out with every TV interview. First it'd be 250 feet high to clear the highest building, and would be transparent on the South side to let in light and opaque on the North side. Then the dome would have no internal support structure and would stay aloft by keeping the pressure inside slightly above atmospheric pressure. Then if the dome were punctured, it would be designed to decompress slowly, and not collapse. When asked about the effect of automobile exhaust, the planners proclaimed that there would only be electric cars and monorails inside.

Buckminster Fuller even rolled into town to express his enthusiasm for the project, which he said wouldn't be "terribly difficult" from an engineering perspective. Unfortunately, the dome was not to be. In the midst of a reelection in a terrible economy, President Carter called up the HUD to close off funds for the project before the expenditures became a campaign issue. By the time Reagan won the election and was in office, money for the dome had completely dried up.


· Entire Vermont Town Was Almost Covered In A Giant Dome To Stay Warm [Unofficial Networks]
· Doomed Dome: the future that never was [H Plus Magazine]