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Inside The Glass Bank

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Photo: The Glass Bank was and still is to many people, a landmark of Cocoa Beach.

Considered by many to be a Cocoa Beach landmark, The First Federal Savings and Loan Building was constructed in 1961, giving the city’s skyline a modern look for the time.

The building was nicknamed “The Glass Bank”, because originally the structure boasted glass windows on it’s entire exterior. The top floor was occupied by the “Ramon’s Rainbow Room”, a restaurant and nightclub which regularly hosted national politicians, astronauts and Hollywood stars and was known for it’s great tasting food and atmosphere.

Over the years, concrete was added to the building’s exterior, possibly due to hurricanes constantly hitting Florida’s east coast. It’s last tenants were Huntington Bank on the first floor, an Atlantic Nautilus fitness center on the upper floors, and Frank Wolfe who had built a penthouse atop of the building.

After taking heavy damage in 2004 from Hurricane Frances, the businesses on the bottom were forced to move out but Frank Wolfe remained.

Photo from Florida Today
Photo(Florida Today, 2009): Wolfe’s penthouse was clean and had running electricity, despite the condition of the rest of the building.

The building soon fell into disarray and the city became concerned with the broken windows, leaky roofing, mold and asbestos. This prompted a legal battle between Wolfe and the Glass Bank Condominium Association, which oversaw the rest of the building and wanted it torn down. Despite the fact that the bottom half of the building was in disrepair, Wolfe’s penthouse was in immaculate condition; clean and with running electricity.

Following a years-long dispute about what to do with the building, a three-judge appellate court panel affirmed that Wolfe owed millions of dollars for assessments, fees and repairs to majority owner Joseph Yossifon.

In January 2014, the condo association signed an agreement with Cocoa Beach officials to let the city declare the structure a nuisance, demolish it, clear it, and then have the owners pay back the costs of the demolition within three years. Wolfe rejected the proposal, but a court ruling in February cleared the way for the association to begin foreclosure proceedings against Wolfe.

The day following the court hearing, Frank Wolfe was found dead in front of the Glass Bank by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The fate of the building is still unknown at this time.

Photo by Nomeus - www.flurbex.com
Photo(Nomeus – www.flurbex.com): The bottom floors have been neglected since Hurricane Frances in 2004.

Photographer: Nomeus
Website: Nomeus Photography

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Co-Owner of the Glass Bank Found Dead

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Co-Owner of the Glass Bank Found Dead

Frank Wolfe, 82, a longtime resident of Cocoa Beach and co-owner of the Glass Bank, died Wednesday as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

His death came a day after a court ruling cleared the way for city to demolish the once-iconic building.

Following a years-long dispute about what to do with the building, a three-judge appellate court panel affirmed that Wolfe owed millions of dollars for assessments, fees and repairs to majority owner Joseph Yossifon, who owned the whole building except for the penthouse, which was owned and built by Wolfe.

Last month, the condo association signed an agreement with Cocoa Beach officials to let the city declare the structure a nuisance, demolish it, clear it, and then have the owners pay back the costs of the demolition within three years. Wolfe rejected the proposal, but Tuesday’s ruling cleared the way for the association to begin foreclosure proceedings against Wolfe.

For years, the Glass Bank, built in 1961, was a futuristic landmark in Cocoa Beach. Once a prime business address, Ramon’s Rainbow Room nightclub on the top floor regularly hosted national politicians, astronauts and Hollywood stars.

But the building has sat empty for years now, except for Wolfe, who lived in a penthouse atop of the building.

Bob Baugher, a longtime friend of Wolfe’s, spoke with him early Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after Wolfe left his office, police responded to a 9-1-1 call about a man down in the building’s garage. According to Baugher, the power was cut so there was no telling how Wolfe must have felt when he came back to the building only to find he couldn’t get back into his house.

“It’s a tragedy. The whole thing just makes me sick. He was a friend. He was an honorable person. But he got screwed by the justice system. It’s not hard to figure out. They pushed him off the cliff.”

Photo from Coastal Breeze News

Cape Romano Dome House

Photo from Coastal Breeze News
Photo(Coastal Breeze News): The house was planned to be fully self sufficient and eco-friendly.

Built in 1981 on the southern tip of Marco Island, the Dome House is an igloo-like concrete complex made up of white dome chambers, now decaying and slipping slowly into the ocean. Many know about it’s whereabouts but it’s origins were up to debate; from alien to secret cults. In truth, it was built by a retired oil producer and inventor.

Bob Lee began work on the house in 1980 with the idea that it would be completely self-sufficient and eco-friendly. Purchasing a barge, he began by moving the necessary supplies to the island, including the metal dome forms, two concrete mixers and fresh water to mix the cement.

Florida’s turbulent weather was taken into account and the sturdy, rounded domes were able to sustain hurricane winds, having taken little damage from Hurricane Andrew years later. Having a second use, rain water would hit the domes and would wash down into a gutter system which surrounded them, which lead into a cistern under the main dome. After running the water through filters, the water was then able to be used for things such as showers or dishwashing. Solar panels were installed providing free electricity to the house.

After it’s completion in 1982, Lee and his family sold just two years later in 1984. When the owner got into financial troubles, they repossessed the home in 1987 and lived in it until 1993. By that time, the island was already changing and had washed away other homes in the area.

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Photo: 2005 aerial photograph of the Dome House.

It was purchased in 2005 by the John Tosto family with the hopes of renovating the home and making it functional again. Tosto planned on relocating the domes off state-owned lands and bring them into compliance with county building codes. The domes will be moved by crane and set atop new concrete or steel pilings more than 50 feet from the high tide line and at least 25 feet away from wetlands behind the site.Construction materials will be delivered by barge, and work will be timed to avoid sea turtle and shorebird nesting seasons, the permit application says.

Deemed unsafe, the Collier County Code Enforcement Board issued an order in 2007 to demolish the structures. Having already invested $500,000 into the parcel, he refused and was fined for $187,000 in 2009. Tosto spoke of having a vision, and said destiny, not luck, would allow him to prevail, still believing he could save the home.

The structures remain there to this day but are so far from the shore due to changing shoreline, that any attempt at saving them has probably long been lost.

Photo by Marci Seamples, 2013
Photo(Marci Seamples, 2013): The only thing keeping the house above the water are the pylons the concrete pylons they sit on.

Photographer: Marci Seamples
Year Taken: 2013
Website: Flickr

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