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Photo by Nomeus - www.flurbex.com

Inside The Glass Bank

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

Photo by Bullet, 2014

‘Honky Ranch’ Treehouse

Photo by Drew Perlmutter, 2012
Photo(Drew Perlmutter, 2012): The treehouse was built with bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen.

James Talmage “Tokey” Walker developed a strong work ethic at an early age. He delivered newspapers and sorted dirty diapers at the Swan Laundry to save enough money to attend the University of Alabama, where he hoped to earn a law degree. The collapse of the banks during the Great Depression saw his savings and his educational aspirations lost and the direction of his life changed.

Inspired by his father’s cousins, pioneers of southern aviation, he took up flying. During World War II, he served as a civilian flight instructor for the United States Navy at the University of Georgia. He and his wife later moved to Marietta, Ga., where Mr. Walker was a production test pilot for the B-29 bomber.

Photo by Nomeus, 2008
Photo(Nomeus – Flurbex.com, 2008): The buildings on the propery have been vandalized throughout the years.

In October 1945, the Walkers moved to Clearwater at the invitation of the late Robert J. Word, who had been a flight instructor in Georgia. They went into business together, renting and selling airplanes and giving flying lessons. When the government discontinued underwriting the cost of teaching war veterans how to fly, the company was converted and they began constructing window frames out of aluminum.

The business was renamed Metal Industries, now known as J. T. Walker Industries.

In the 60s, James Walker purchased a plot of land in Brooksville and began raising Charolais cattle, which he later converted into a commercial nursery years later. In the early-70s, he constructed a massive 3-story tree house on the property for his grandchildren, and included bedrooms, bathrooms and even a kitchen.

Photo by Nomeus, 2008
Photo(Nomeus – Flurbex.com, 2008): Everything inside have since been destroyed or stolen.

Mr. Walker was involved with the Clearwater YMCA and the Lions Club and was a founding member of the Springtime City Kiwanis Club. He was chairman of the Morton Plant Hospital Charity Ball in 1989 and was awarded the Golden Flame Philanthropy Award in 2000 in recognition of the donation he made in memory of his late wife, Sarah, who passed away in 1996.

James Walker passed away in 2003.

After his death, his property in Brooksville was abandoned, though it is still owned by J. T. Walker Industries. The buildings on the property have been vandalized throughout the years, for example, police arrived for training drills to find two men stealing copper wiring in 2007. A few years later, marijuana was found growing inside one of the greenhouses on the property.

Locals are concerned as a number of people have been caught there and the vandalism worsens.

Photo by Nomeus, 2008
Photo(Nomeus – Flurbex.com, 2008): Dubbed ‘Honky Ranch’ after Flurbex member, Incredible Honky, discovered the abandonment in 2008.

Photographer: Bullet
Year Taken: 2014
Website: Abandoned Florida

Photographer: Drew Perlmutter
Year Taken: 2012
Website: Flickr

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2008
Website: FLURBEX

Photo by Bullet, 2010

Hollywood Fashion Center

Photo(Nomeus, 2010 – Flurbex.com): The stench from the bat guano is so intense, that you can smell it from the outside.

Opening in 1972, it started out as the Hollywood Fashion Center, a shopping mall which had four anchor stores including Burdines, Jordan Marsh, JC Penney and Richards and is thought to have been a factor in the demise of the Hollywood Mall. Some of the smaller stores included Hallmark Cards, Spencers Gifts, Walgreens and Walgreens Liquor Store, The Plum Tree, and Lillie Rubin, just to name a few.

In the late-1980s, the center started losing many of it’s tenants, including one of it’s anchor stores, Jordan Marsh, who filed for bankruptcy in 1990. In 1992, The Pembroke Lakes Mall opened just 6 miles away in Pembroke Pines. Burdines and JcPenney moved to the much larger stores in the Pembroke Lakes Mall later that same year. By January 1993, less than 30 percent of the stores were filled of the now anchor-less mall, forcing the owner to file for bankruptcy to seek protection from creditors. The center was ultimately auctioned off in August 1993 and sold to State Mutual Life Assurance of America for $4.3 million, but only $32,940 in the final transaction. The mall sat empty for the next decade.

Photo(Nomeus, 2010 – Flurbex.com): The inside has been heavily damaged by vandals, vagrants and scrappers.

On October 11, 2003, the center re-opened as an indoor flea market and renamed The Millennium Hollywood’s City Place. Millennium Development Enterprises signed a 60-year lease with plans to invest over $20 million to remake the mall. Plans included installing a 3,700 foot ice rink, functioning merry-go-round and over 1000 tenants by the time the mall opened.

Though the mall opened to great fanfare, it didn’t last long as tenants became frustrated as having sparse advertisement, no food court, and the recent discovering that most of the vendors were selling stolen wares attracted a very small number of customers. In December 2003, Swap Shop owner Preston Henn gave vendors at the Millennium Mall an offer, causing 180 of the 600 vendors to leave the mall for good.

Photo(Nomeus, 2010 – Flurbex.com): Though the mall is boarded up, that hasn’t stopped kids from getting in.

The mall closed again in 2004 and since then, there have been many attempts at reopening the mall with plans going no further than just talks. Though the building was boarded up to prevent the homeless and vandals from entering, it hasn’t stopped them from wrecking the inside. While some fellow explorers were there, they witnessed a group of kids running amok, shooting paint balls and smashing glass frames. Along with the vandalism problem, many bats and roaches had made the former JCPenney their home, making the air very toxic.

In April 2011, the mall proved to be a danger as a teenage girl fell down one of the elevator shafts. Police say the 14-year-old and about a half dozen of her friends were hanging out inside the mall when the girl fell some 30 feet down an elevator shaft. Instead of calling 911 though, her friends carried her outside and over a wall which separates the mall from the nearby neighborhoods. A neighbor said she was in very bad shape when an ambulance was called, noting that though her eyes were open, she was in shock and couldn’t think or make out words.

In 2012, it was reported that Walmart was looking into purchasing the mall, to demolish and to replace it with a supercenter. The following year, the owner of the landmark parcel submitted site plans to build a 185,000 square foot Walmart Supercenter along with a TD Bank, a Taco Bell and a Pollo Tropical. In November 2013, the city’s Planning & Zoning Board approved the plans.

The mall is currently in demolition and construction will begin soon afterwards. They plan to be open to the public by summer 2015.

Photo(Nomeus, 2010 – Flurbex.com): The suits were worn to protect against the bats and cockroach infested half of the mall.

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2010
Website: FLURBEX

Photographer: Bullet
Year Taken: 2011
Website: Abandoned Florida

NBC 2 News, 2011 – Girl falls down elevator shaft in abandoned mall