This Old Round House

On the outskirts of Canutillo, visible from I-10 is a rather curious structure. Sitting in the desert is a dome shaped, round concrete house.  As a kid, I could recall seeing it when we would travel west and it would immediately conjure up images of what living in the “future” must be like.

I never got to see the house up close but you easily could see the domed concrete roof, gazebo and diving boards from the freeway.  It was right out of an episode of “That’s Incredible” or “Real People”, where they would show some family living off the grid in a solar dome in New Mexico making their own gasoline from corn or something.

On a recent trip to pick up firewood in Las Cruses, I scanned for it as we passed where it should have been. Either I had missed it or something was blocking my view because I didn’t see it.  I checked Bing maps’ “birds-eye-view” and found an image of it so at least when Bing went live it was still there:

The Canutillo Round House

Hmmm, It didn’t look as fantastic as I remembered but hey its standing.  I headed to check it out in person and see what it would be like to live in a future from the 70’s.

The futures not so bright

The site was less Barbarella and more Mad Max. The main house has collapsed on itself and unkempt shrubs and weeds were everywhere.

That was a dome idea

Upon closer inspection you get a sense that the construction was a little less refined than it appeared from afar and whoever built it really liked concrete.  Not only was the roof concrete but the exterior walls, gazebo and weird tubular perimeter fence were cement. The interior walls also have rocks embedded in them in a rather haphazard pattern.

Nice fountain
Nice fountain

I couldn’t get a feel for what the interior would have looked like due to the roof collapse.  It was apparent that nobody has lived here in a long time.  The interior has been stripped and graffiti covers every surface.

All tagged up
All tagged up

The pool must have been a sight in it’s heyday. You can imagine all manner of 70’s disco parties taking place here; mustaches, corvettes, polyester and cocaine.

Poolside
Poolside

It would be interesting to know what caused the owners to abandon their hip outpost. Judging by the lack of any insulation, keeping this place cool or hot might have been a chore. Maybe they were bankrupted by the acres of concrete layed in casting this place.  One things for sure, you don’t get up and leave your house unmonitored in Canutillo.  That’s asking for gangs to move in.

915!
915!

It was a bummer seeing this place in such disarray.  Much like my fantasy future of geodesic dome living never panned out, it didn’t for the owners here either.  The hard truth is given enough time, concrete will crack no matter how much you pour.

A bigger walk through is here: This Old Round House.

8 thoughts on “This Old Round House”

  1. I was too young to have grown up in this house but my brothers and sisters did. My dad, Joseph Angelini was the designer and builder of the the dome. The house was sold after his divorce and was standing until 2006. From what I know the structure was sound and the house was purposely knocked down. In the mid 80’s my dad built another round house off of country club road in the upper valley. I grew up in the newer round house until it was sold in August of 2011. I believe I have pictures of the dome in its prime, inside and out. I will find them and figure out how to post them to this page.

    1. That’s awesome, I’m glad to hear from somebody who has some knowledge on its history. It fascinated me as a kid but the only information I could ever get on it was just rumor and whatnot.

      1. I worked not far from there and I would go there at lunch and look around. There wasn’t anything left of the inside but you could tell where the kitchen and bath room was. The thing that struck me was the view! It was very cool looking from the inside near the front door and looking out across the desert. And the pool had some water in it and there were… minnows swimming around, I have no idea where they came from or how they survived the summers and winters.

  2. This house sat on five acres of land and was once for sale for around $475,000. I remember seeing a for sale sign that was knocked down on the ground. It apparently also had a well that was appeared all dried out. Back when this was for sale, it had already been hollowed out and full of graffiti. This was back when the concrete shell was still standing intact but the rest of it was already destroyed. The last time I saw this place in person was probably around 2003. I did see photos once of what the house looked like when it was still standing. I don’t know if the person that had the photos ever had an real ties to it or if they just had a fascination with the place. It had a lot of green grass surrounding it so the house almost looked looked kind of green in one of the photos I saw. There used to be also be a beige stucco house immediately next to it on the other side of the pool that I remember seeing in an old picture back when the house was still livable but it got torn down at some point. For it being a 5 acre lot, it’s crazy that the rest of the lot had nothing on it or that the ouse wasn’t made even larger.

  3. I’m Paolo Angelini’s cousin Brian. He just gave me the heads up on your website the other day. I was maybe the dome house biggest fan. Rather its Architects cousin Joe’s biggest fan. He and the fact that as a family we built most all of our homes inspired me to want to become an Architect myself. I started taking drafting classes in Junior High and Vocational courses in High School. The plan to work as a draftsman to pay for college. Then one day we went on a field trip to an Architectural firm in Denver and saw a computer print out a plan in 5 minutes that would take a week to draw by hand. Bye bye job and plans..So I joined the Army. I always wanted to be a soldier too..and the Army offered a way to put money away for school. Always have a plan B. Never did become an architect though. .
    In any case as soon as me and my other cousin here in Denver were old enough to drive we go on road trips wherever the car would take us. The car always took us to Joe house because was a perfect vacation spot. It had an Olympic pool skeet shoot…dirt bikes tennis court ..horses… 7 bedrooms and 7 baths, a massive wooden dinning room table that must have been 20 feet long off the ample kitchen. The living room was enormous. It had a fountain in it. A spiral staircase led to the play room at the top of the dome were there was a pool table..ping-pong table..pinball games and of course a Bar.… and there were kids our age to play with. 37 feet to the top because 57 seems to high..I cant remember the exact dimension. In any case when you were in the play room you were up there high..I followed Joe junior up the dome on a dirt bike … just once..it was pretty hairy.
    We’d mooch of the relatives for a few days. In fact my last year of high school having credits enough to graduate we took off before school ended. Being the drafting teacher’s Assistant I had the hours as well. I talked my teacher into cutting me lose the one week early. I promised him some pictures and an essay on this marvelous architectural structure. He thought I had made it up out of whole cloth for a way to play hooky from school. All I had to do to graduate was complete a drawing that I was working on and turn it in. So he let me go. Joe lent me his drafting table finished my drawing and quizzed him on how he built it and took notes. And took some pictures and measurements. That was 1979. I had already joined the Army on early entry and would be going to boot camp a few days after by 18th birthday that September. Yes the place was made for entertainment and Joe entertained family and friends all the time. There would be people from the Secret White Sands Base…Joe’s brother Roy worked there. There were US and Foreign Airforce officers and various of Joe’s colleagues as guests. It took a staff to maintain. They lived in a small adjacent house on the property if I recall. My drafting teacher was surprised that my yarn was true. I got extra credit for the essay and pictures. I wish I could find them. I recall that Joe told me that he chose that place to build because he needed the climate so that the concrete wouldn’t flex too much..he needed a bunch of sand to pile up..and there was nothing but sand there. And the property taxes and cost of living labor and material in that area were low. I think they poured it in one day. A very long day. They would have had too. I remember him talking of running into unexpected difficulties with the pour and how they overcame them. Cant remember how many cubic yards either..I wish I could remember more..I wish I could find my notes. In any case I’ve some color pictures and if I can’t fine the negatives of the complete shoot I’ll scan the hard copies and send them to Paolo. In any case years after here in Denver a dome structure popped up…They made it into a church. Can’t say Joe’s design and build inspired it but can’t say it didn’t either. I carried a drafting table everywhere with me during the military. In Italy I would pass time drawing up old farm houses and restoring them into restaurants or bars or hotels. Vicenza where I was stationed is the home of the famous Andrea Palladio. And I’d pass my off time as well exploring the villas in his design in the area. My daughter ultimately became a “Geometra”. That’s Italian for something less than an Architect but more than a Draftsman. She just got married to another Geometra. They are in the process of building a home now. So in the end Joe inspired her as well. I’m happy that the place and Joe has gotten some attention. They were both unique.

  4. Hi,
    My name is Forrest, my cousin Joe designed and built the dome house. the structure itself as huge and and had a wine cellar and too many bedrooms. I remember as my cousins guest, i would wake up at night to go to the bathroom and actually get lost on my way back to my room. The grounds had a pool tennis court and stables. Some of my favorite memories are riding dirt bikes and horses in the surrounding desert. It was an awesome place!
    My cousin Joe and his brother Roy were two of my favorite people.Thanks for jogging my memories of a really good time of my life.
    Take care.
    Forrest Lacey

  5. John Have some pics of the dome house one shows the inside were the fountain was. Just dont know how to send them to you.

Let me know what you think!