Frank Wolfe and the Glass Bank: A Cautionary Tale – Bachelor Uncle of the Week

The 60’s were a rad time, man.

Today we’re going to talk about a Bachelor Uncle if there ever was one. His name is Frank Wolfe, and his life is forever tied to this building. The Glass Bank. Let’s get it started.

In 1962, some 38 year old MIT architect built this weird glass building close to where they were launching space rockets. Which means that, for the first time, Bachelor Uncle is taking a trip to Florida. Florida is a fucking mess. This is no exception.

For a few years people really liked this building and marveled at it’s modernist design. It was bright, open, and airy inside. But it was also in Florida which means that windows would constantly get blown out, and it was hot and muggy in there. It was an expensive building to upkeep, regardless, and that didn’t get any better as time went on and it went from being a “hip” new beautiful architectural achievement to “that weird ass building over by the strip club.”

There was a restaurant on the top floor, but there was no elevator access, so it went out of business quickly. So someone thought it would be a good idea to build this stupid thing.

Totally blends in. No one would ever tell there was an elevator randomly tacked on as an after-thought. Smooth engineering, guys.

So with that really slick and totally integrated elevator, in came Ramon and his Rainbow Room. An avocado green mid-century spot with cool music and a curry-infused Caesar dressing. And for a few years, the Glass Bank and the Rainbow Room were a hopping joint and things were looking good for Florida.

Oh the fancy things that happened in here.

The Rainbow Room at dusk.

But then the ’80s happened and the Savings and Loan crash really messed up the economy for the Glass Bank. And here comes the hero of our story, Frank Wolfe, a Florida attorney and local resident.

No, that’s not James Caan. That’s Frank Wolfe.

He bought the rights to the penthouse of the Glass Bank and set out to build his dream house. “But, Jack, There is no Penthouse on the Glass Bank.” You might say. And you’d be right. But you made a critical error in your judgement. You underestimated Frank fuckin’ Wolfe.

So this guy was in love with the Glass Bank, which makes his next moves kind of curious to me. Clearly he loved this building so much, but, what he would do to it, would really destroy it’s artistic and architectural integrity.

What the actual fuck, Frank?

But Frankie boy wanted to live here, so he slapped a huge brutalist bunker on the roof with absolutely zero windows and went out building his dream space. He got rid of a lot of the windows (cuz they kept breaking) and turned the thing into an imposing fortress. No longer was this place a bright, airy, modern arboretum, now it was an evil villain’s ominous lair.

I have to imagine there was a better way to do this.

So, in true Bachelor Uncle style, Frank had some quirks. He didn’t like corners and right angles. So the interior of his penthouse was built around circles and curves. I have no idea why. In 2010, he let some people in to take pictures and I’m going to just show you what an insane place this was.

I guess if you don’t have windows, a large round room would help alleviate the feeling of claustrophobia.
This custom kitchen is disorienting, but it’s cool, I guess. I appreciate how weird it is. Look at all the curves.
I love tuck and roll leather bars, and the weird snake-like shape, but look at the where the roof meets the wall. Who the fuck uses carpet for crown molding? Can’t have any corners can you, you weirdo?
Come on in, the weather’s weird.
Frank, let’s talk buddy. They make these holes in your walls that allow you to look out at the world. You don’t have to pretend with a fake window. Either way, decisions were made here.
There’s a weird Greco-Roman mid-century thing going on here. Again, Frank opts for leather as crown molding and I’m not sure how I feel about any of this. I love it, but it also skeeves me out.
This is clearly the best room in the house. I have zero complaints about this space. It’s beautiful and perfect. A+ Frank. You won the game in this room.
But then you have this space, which doesn’t serve any purpose other than to show off your obsession with weird crown molding again. Why can’t you have any straight lines? Are you trying to tell us something? What is it?
Even your closet doors can’t be straight can they, Frank? I’m glad you brought your kitchen into your bedroom. It looks great.
No one knows what this is for or where it goes. It’s just a carpeted prolapsed anus that leads to a space where nothing good ever happens.

Mercifully, the architect died about 8 years before Frank did any of this to the building, so he never got to see what his beautiful dumb bank became.

Say what you want about Frank and what he decided to do to the Glass Bank. He had an idea and a vision and he made it real. He didn’t give a fuck about resale value or your opinion or mine. This was his own little weird space that I’m sure made him feel 1000 feet tall. It’s beautiful because it’s so completely him. It’s a manifestation of his own will and he lives and dies on the sword of his own creativity.

But, Florida is Florida and it hates everyone and everything. Being in Cocoa Beach, the Glass Bank was going to get it’s ass wrecked sooner or later. And sure enough, this building got pummeled by hurricane after hurricane. The bank itself? Destroyed. But Frank’s penthouse remained untouched, because it was a fallout shelter 5 stories in the air.

Just gorgeous.

So everyday, Frank would walk up to this bombed out building and ride his rickety elevator up to the 6th floor and disappear into his weird round hovel. These years of his aging penthouse sitting untouched upon the crumbling remains of a former 1960’s landmark, must have been super surreal.

But local governments hate blight, and eventually everyone in the community was just like “Can we please knock this shit down?”. And the whole town was like “Yeah!” but Frank was like “No no no. I live here.”

2013, Frank was in his ’80s and his health was not so great. He returned to Maine to be with family while he focused on his health, and while he was out of town Cocoa Beach was like, “Peace out Frank. We’re gonna knock this thing down!”

So Frank rushes back down and fights the court order, and spends a ton of money, trying to stave off the wrecking ball of his beloved home. But you can’t beat Washington (or in this case, Cocoa Beach Local Government).

Dejected, Frank asks if he can just go get some of his personal stuff. He has no more fight left in his body. So he pulls up to the condemned building and pushes the button to his elevator and nothing happens. They had shut off the power, and since Frank built this thing like a bunker, there was no way into his penthouse.

He basically begged for power to be restored so he could get his diplomas and personal effects. His pleas would go unheeded. So, the night before the building was set to be destroyed, Frank gave up.

At 3:06 on February 5th, 2014, Cocoa Beach police department respond to a call that a body was found in front of the Glass Bank. A man was found dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The 82-year old Frank Wolfe took his own life on the steps of his favorite place in the world. He killed himself rather than live in a world without the Glass Bank. Frank loved what he built more than anything and the loss of it was too much for him to bear.

In a weird aside, when they tried to knock the building down they found a bunch of asbestos and had to spend even more money and time to take it down. While they were working on that, a feral cat named Morris, took up residence in the Glass Bank and won over the hearts of locals. But, if you ask me:

Doesn’t this just look like Frank, reincarnated?

So today we salute Frank Wolfe, as a cautionary tale. About loving something too much. About being too committed to your own personal aesthetic. But part of me gets it. Part of me really feels for Frank. Being 82 and knowing that you’ll never be able to live without such a big part of yourself.

I read once that we all die three times. The first time is when we physically pass away. The second time is when we are put in the ground. And the third time is when our names are spoken on Earth for the last time. So today I am doing everything I can keep Frank alive. Hopefully it’s round and curvy wherever you are, you old weirdo.

Here’s a video of some urban explorers picking through the carcass of the Frank Wolfe penthouse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *