A saucer-shaped house built in 1969 and located outside Houston, Delaware, since 1977, looks like something out of the future.
And it might soon be included on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation recently voted to move forward with a nomination for the Futuro house owned by Barney and Carol Vincelette.
The 30-page nomination form calls the 500-square-foot home “startling [and] otherworldly.”
It’s kind of inspiring, with that high ceiling,” said Stephanie Holyfield, who helped prepare the nomination with her daughter, Valarie Shorter.
Their work on the nomination came out of a public history class Holyfield had been teaching at Wesley College in 2018.
“We need to save these the same we would preserve old films,” Barney told WBOC.
If approved – which Holyfield expects in a few weeks – it would be the second Futuro on the register, following one in California.
Being listed on the register “shows that it has value where it is,” Holyfield said.
That’s a huge contrast to the reception that Barney got when he bought it, paying $16,000 for the fully furnished structure, using his Air Force severance and working off the rest to owner Joe Hudson “because no bank would finance such an unusual house,” he wrote in Nest Egg magazine, reposted on the From Moon to Moon blog. Various jurisdictions and his new neighbors didn’t want a Futuro, either.
Barney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Being on the historic register
Being on the register also opens up the ability to get grants for restoration, Holyfield said, “but it doesn’t stop you from doing what you want to it.” By contrast, buildings in historic districts do have to follow some guidelines, she added.
The Futuro “consists of a central fiberglass and polyester resin layer that sandwiches a core of polyurethane >foam between an outer and inner layer of polyester plastic,” the nomination says. It has 18 windows and a five-step retractable staircase that flashes green or blue.
The Futuros began in the Space Age of the late 1960s, designed first as a ski chalet by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen.
The 1973 oil embargo tripled the price of the polymers needed to create the 5,500-pound structure, and that was essentially the end of the Futuros, Claudia Colaprete writes in “Secrets of the Eastern Shore.”
Less than 100 were made, and Delaware has a second one, near Eagle Crest Airport, north of Lewes.
The Vincelettes’ Futuro “retains many original character-defining features supporting its period of significance,” the nomination sys, including the original layout, most kitchen appliances and the bedroom and bathroom furnishings. The original fireplace has been removed, and the house uses geothermal heat and adjacent solar panels.
The property also has four sheds (made by Polytech students, so they’re not historic), used for laundry, exercise and storage.
The Vincelettes’ Futuro is “the best example of a surviving Futuro with exceptional integrity,” the nomination says.
Barney was flying over Delaware when he first saw the Futuros that Hudson was trying to sell as beach cottages. He “moved to Delaware to live in his prize possession,” the nomination said. “Dr. Vincelette’s enthusiasm for the design and willingness to relocate are consistent with the early popularity of the Futuros; however, he was driven by a passion for mathematics rather than science fiction. He considered the ellipsoid shape to be mathematically perfect.”
In 2009, Barney earned a doctorate in mathematical physics and applied mathematics from Delaware State University, he writes on his LinkedIn profile, as Robert Vincelette. He also taught at Delaware State and Lincoln University.
“The Futuro house was not just a home,” he wrote in Nest Egg. “It was my way of life.”
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