Back in 1970s, Thelma Levine Worthen and her husband Dick Worthen bought waterfront property on West I Street in downtown Benicia, after a lengthy permitting process with the San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Committee for a dock, floating barge and a 1.5 story house that would feature a geodesic dome.
Dick was a builder who also taught rhetoric at Diablo Valley College, and Thelma taught elementary school. Thelma’s daughter Laura Eytan relates that Dick was on the cutting edge of design—and a very interesting guy. As a young person, Laura helped build the dome.
After Dick died, it was a challenge for Thelma to keep it up. She went into assisted living, and eventually, Laura bought the house from Thelma’s estate. Over the past few years she has been slowly fixing it up, and filling it with art, including her own, Jewish items and collections such as Indian Saris. Laura renovated the kitchen, upgraded bedrooms and bathrooms and replaced the all the flooring. True to a 70s era home, the interior features lots of wood and several original stained glass windows made by a local artist.
Before purchasing the property, Laura had lived in San Francisco then New Jersey. But she and her three kids had spent a lot of time at the dome, and she’s very happy she was able to purchase it in her retirement. Again working with BCDC, she recently completed a project shoring up the home’s dock, which also functions as an extended deck.
As part of Laura’s effort to maintain and improve the home, she replaced the dome’s cover and re-sealed it, which led to painting the exterior a vibrant blue, named Good Karma.
Meanwhile, she met and collaborated with budding artist Chris Weiner, which opened up whole new color world for Laura. Chris painted strong, masculine graphic motifs on several of the panels before moving out of the area.
Laura set out to paint the remaining panels, which are now almost complete, in her feminine, curvy style, which juxtaposes well with Chris’ strong graphics. “The colors remind me of my Jewish prayer shawl, a Tallis,” she said. She also found inspiration from the Saris she brought back from her travels in India. A door and window frame were painted green, which turned out to be named So Sari.
Of her bold color choices, she says, “I’m very vivid. I needed my bright, happy colors—and curvy graphics. The dome is my sanctuary. I needed a sense of feminine power and protection. It’s all about Jewish mysticism, to lift up people up and bring them to the light.”
As the dome home vibrates with fresh life and color, Laura reflects on the process. “This is where my life has been leading, this has been my journey and I’ve been coming in this direction since I was little. I sit here on the deck and I have a little piece of paradise. It’s idyllic.”