Astrodome, World's '8th Wonder,' Lies Abandoned

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Dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Reliant Astrodome continues to sit abandoned, a ghost of its former self -- once host to 50,000-plus crowds for baseball, football, basketball and even tennis.

The stadium first opened in 1965 as the "Harris County Domed Stadium" to host Major League Baseball's Houston Astros. The franchise's sale to former Houston Mayor Roy Hofheinz was predicated on construction of the innovative building, on the premise that Houston's scorching temperatures and oppressive humidity made major league play in an open-air stadium unattractive.

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Reliant Astrodome
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Astrodome, World's '8th Wonder,' Lies Abandoned (PHOTOS)
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Designed by Hermon Lloyd & W.B Morgan, and Wilson, Morris, Crain and Anderson, the Reliant Astrodome is 18 stories high and sprawls 9.5 acres. The structure was the forerunner of other domed stadiums such as the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, which notoriously housed thousands of people fleeing Hurricane Katrina.

The Astrodome spurred the popularization of AstroTurf -- a synthetic turf originally called Chemgrass -- even in open-air stadiums. The sport surface was installed in the venue because the dome's cover inhibited the growth of natural grass.

Billie Jean King and Muhammad Ali both won in the Astrodome, as did the University of Houston Cougars in what's been called NCAA basketball's "Game of the Century." Since being retired as a sports stadium in the early 2000s, after its home teams migrated to other sports venues, the Astrodome has faced an identity crisis, languishing without a clear purpose. One proposal called for converting the structure into an amusement park (as Germany did with a nuclear plant).

But no firm plans to breath new life into the historic structure have materialized, and in the meantime, the world's first domed stadium has deteriorated to the extent that visitors must sign waivers to enter it. The Houston Press recently took a tour through the abandoned, deteriorating Astrodome, shooting the photos in the above gallery that capture the building's now ghostly atmosphere.

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Quirky Home Conversions
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For all the house porn addicts, mind-blowing price tags, tens of thousands of square feet and double staircases are enough to satisfy their cravings for residential eye candy. At some point, however, those staples of grandeur might lose their luster. And if that sad day does arrive, they'll be left wondering what went wrong. 

But house oglers shouldn't despair: As it turns out, there's a whole other world of rich, eye-pleasing properties that can rekindle the magic: conversions. And we're not just referring to your regular old office-to-co-op conversions -- we're talking much bigger stuff -- missile silos, nuclear plants, churches, to name a few.

Click through our gallery to see some of the most offbeat, quirky conversions around. 

Location: Saranac, N.Y.
Price: $750,000
Beds/Baths: 4/4
Sq. Ft.: 3,100

Don't be fooled by the conventional exterior, this mountain retreat is actually a converted missile launching pad. The main lodge sits atop a 2,300-square-foot silo that's been transformed into a cavernous, luxury living space. 

See a full slideshow of the home, or see the listing

Formerly a Cold War launchpad, the home features a 125-foot stairwell that leads down to two master suites encased in concrete. 

See a full slideshow of the home, or see the listing

Amenities include a state-of-the-art kitchen, spacious dining room and Jacuzzis. The home's entertainment center is in a funnel-shaped pillar that used to serve as the missile pad's control center. 

See a full slideshow of the home, or see the listing

This conversion may not be a home, but we're making an exception because, come on -- how can you give the short shrift to an amusement park that's been constructed out of a nuclear plant? Giving a 1 million pound reactor quite the makeover, Wunderland theme park is in Kalkar, Germany, and features hotel rooms, bars, amusement park rides and restaurants. 

Learn more about this totally rad conversion

One highlight of the reactor's Disney-like offerings is its wing ride. The ride whirls passengers around the inside of the retired power plant's cooling tower. 

Learn more about this totally rad conversion

Touted as the world's most sophisticated nuclear plant, construction on the reactor began in 1972. But Chernobyl was a huge buzz, and prompted public outcry noisy enough to halt its construction. It sat dormant until a Dutch businessman snatched it up and transformed it into an entertainment complex that sees 600,000 visitors a year. 

Learn more about this totally rad conversion

Location: Chicago, Ill. 
Price: $600,000
Beds/Baths: 3/N/A
Sq. Ft.: 4,000

Do you heap hymns onto the karaoke queue? Are you a sucker for Sunday double-headers?
Do you use the words "gosh" and "heck" a lot? 

If you answered yes to all those questions, then this could be your ticket to paradise. Formerly a Lutheran cathedral, this church is now a sprawling home. 

See HuffPost's full slideshow on the place

From the outside, the home still looks like a church. But inside is a different story. Among other touches, the interior boasts double-oak staircases and ceilings that stretch 40 feet high. 

See HuffPost's full slideshow on the place

The home's first floor has three bedrooms and a "bamboo-appointed" bathroom, HuffPost writes. The second floor, overlooking the space's sweeping hardwood floors, has the property's leftover pulpit. 

See HuffPost's full slideshow on the place

The home has also held onto its two-story bell tower. Just be careful not to get trigger happy with the ding-donging. 

See HuffPost's full slideshow on the place

Location: Savannah, Ga. 
Price: $3.35 million
Beds/Baths: 3/4
Sq. Ft.: 4,504

Built in 1892, this home was the "Ships of the Sea Museum" until it underwent a full-blown makeover that transformed it into a luxury home. The home offers stunning views through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. 

See the listing for more details

The home has an elevator that lifts you up through three stories brimming with "custom finishes and fine craftsmanship," according to the listing. You can also use the home's winding glass staircase if you want a little exercise. 

See the listing for more details

The home features an iron balcony, where you can see some jaw-dropping views.

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The home's third-floor terrace has a circular glass dome and two levels with a gas grill and potting shed.

See the listing for more details

How about that! Apparently, a residence in Soest, Utrecht, Netherlands rests inside the sturdy shell of a what used to be a water tower. By the looks of a blueprint of the tower we found on TreeHugger.com, the structure has 7 floors. 

Get more details from TreeHugger.com.

A winding staircase leads visitors up the stark, cylindrical interior. 

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You don't to have travel to the water tower's top to slake your thirst: There's a tap in the kitchen. 

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Location: Tampa, Fla. 
Price: $1.35 million
Beds/Baths: 1/1
Sq. Ft.: 5,200

Stop, drop and roll! This home is a former firehouse built in 1911. Behind its staid, brick exterior awaits a glamorous interior with fine finishes and exquisite detail. 

See the listing for more details

The home has an elevator, the listing says, but there's no mention of a fire pole. The second floor is basically just one sprawling penthouse. There's a "secluded" courtyard outside.

See the listing for more details

The alternative dwelling is perfect for your well-heeled car buff: Its garage can, of course, house a few firetrucks -- or 12 cars.  

See the listing for more details

Location: Carmel Valley, Calif. 
Price: $2.95 million
Beds/Baths: 3/1
Sq. Ft.: 21,718

With Armageddon just around the corner (according to the Mayans), house hunters may want to start thinking about how to ride out all that impending fire and brimstone. This converted 10-story satellite dish built to withstand a five-megaton nuclear hit is one option

See a full slideshow of the home

NASA constructed the Jamesburg Earth Station in 1968 to receive transmissions from the Apollo moon landings, the Los Angeles Times reports. The property offers 160 acres along with a 20,000-square-foot residential carapace with three bedrooms and a helipad. 

See a full slideshow of the home

Sheltered from the winds and equipped with its own self-contained air system, the Jamesburg Earth Station is "a great place for Armegeddon," owner Jeffrey Bullis told the L.A. Times

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