DeKalb County probably has only one house that resembles
a turtle at least thats what the 4-year-old son
of its owner, Steven Hardman, calls it.
Three years ago, the Hardmans bought what is known as the
geodesic dome house on the north edge of Waterman near the corner
of West Fuller Street and Waterman Road.
The house was built in 1979-80 by Albert Harley
Johnson and his friend, Loren Monsess. I found it fascinating,
driving by it for years. Finally, this January I located Harleys
widow, Carol, then at Heritage Woods in DeKalb. We met and discovered
we had lived side by side in rooming houses on Lucinda Avenue
while we both were students at NIU.
But before I could get back to her for a follow-up interview,
she passed away two weeks ago. I was saddened to learn of her
death and reached out to her family to try and resurrect the
houses history. Their son, Dennis, filled me in on what
It seems the family vacationed in Minnesota back in the
1980s and saw a dome-shaped house that interested them. They
learned it was a prebuilt design that could be bought and shipped
Under construction in 1979-80 this framework came
precut with color coding to help match up the complex supports.
(Photo provided by Johnson family)The house as it looks today, sort of resembling a
turtle, as the young son of the present owner calls it. (Schrader
photo for ShawMedia)
so they ordered one for a lot they had bought near their McKinley
Street home in Waterman. Dennis was only 10 when they began assembling
the pieces and constructing it. He recalled Loren helped his
father a great deal with the construction. I reached Loren and
he provided more details on the project. He said
the houses jigsaw puzzle components were all color
coded for ease in assembling, but Harley was color-blind.
It has three levels, and the top floor loft has a window
that provides a scenic view. Dennis said he and his two siblings
had their bedrooms in the lower level, which is mostly underground.
He said their friends asked if their bedrooms were round, but
they actually were pie-shaped, made to fit into the circular
He added that not only is the house shape unique, but his
mothers taste in decorating was quite avant-garde as well.
Their living room carpet was pink, the master bath had all-white
wallpaper with back footprints running up the wall. The shower
cabinet was bright red. Plus, the ceramic floor tiles had little
hearts in them.
Going online to see the art studio website Dennis has designed,
I can tell he inherited some artistic talent from his mother.
His works include art created with acrylic paint on canvas and
some on repurposed wood. Other creations are on solid metal plates,
topped with plexiglass. The drawings are done with charcoal and
Getting back to the house they sold it in 1996 and
moved to DeKalb. It went through three owners, and now the Hardmans
live there with their two young children. Steve Hardman said
the basement level needs remodeling, and they plan to once again
make it into bedrooms for their two children. In case you wonder
about the cupola on the top of the house you cannot stick
your head in it to look out it has a built-in fan to circulate
I wish I had gone to see it two years ago when they were
part of the Waterman House Walk and a large number of curious
local residents toured it. If you really let your imagination
take hold, the breezeway could be the turtles neck and
the attached garage could be its head. But it needs a tail and
I am not sure the Hardmans want to go that far ...