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The First Decade

Perhaps no community’s relationship with the space program resonates deeper than that of Cocoa Beach, Florida. Conveniently located just south of Cape Canaveral, it was home to many of the engineers and technicians who enabled humanity to explore the lunar surface. The First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Cocoa – Cocoa Beach Branch building was an outstanding representation of the region’s architectural link to the Space-Age and to the optimism of the early 1960s. Known to residents as the “Glass Bank,” the First Federal Savings & Loan Association building was designed by noted Sarasota School Architect Reginald C. Knight. Opening in 1962, this Mid-Century Modern structure of glass, steel and concrete stood out on the barrier island community of Cocoa Beach both because of its height and because of its elegant Space-Age design.

With a construction cost exceeding $750,000 ($6.1 million in today’s  dollars), the Glass Bank would have been an impressive structure for a larger city like Ft. Lauderdale, but in a community the 1960 US Census revealed had yet to surpass 3,500 it demonstrated how business believed Cocoa Beach would continue to grow and thrive with each step to the Moon.  The bank’s 4.5 floors of 20,000 sq ft offered mixed use commercial space – the savings and loan on the ground floor, mezzanine, 2 floors of office space and a restaurant on the top floor. While the Sky Room Restaurant would only survive one year, it was supplanted by Ramon’s Rainbow Room. The Rainbow Room offered fine dining and expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean, along with performances by many of the era’s Las Vegas headliners. To accommodate a need for additional seating, in 1965 the Rainbow Room would initiate a significant modification to the building by extending the restaurant’s  walls to the edge of the white arches that had provided patrons an opportunity to watch Cape launches from an observation skywalk that encircled the fourth floor. Citizens made the mezzanine level a community focal point, where groups ranging from scouting to weight loss met free of charge. Because of its height and distinctive design, the building became a physical navigation point for the community – directions were given in terms of being north or south of the Glass Bank. During the first decade of operation, it was not uncommon for tourists to photograph the Glass Bank and request a tour.

A Building Evolves

The significant reduction of NASA’s budget following the successful completion of Project Apollo’s initial lunar landing in 1969 would impact businesses throughout Brevard County, including Cocoa Beach.  Vacancies began to appear on the Glass Bank’s second and third-floor offices which had maintained full occupancy during the building’s first decade of operation. Ramon’s Rainbow Room would close in 1970 and was replaced by Marby’s Rainbow Room who would close in 1972 and end restaurant operations in the Glass Bank. Eventually, tourism and retirees replaced the missile and space industry and with it changed the commercial space needs of the city. This was reflected in the structure’s major modifications in the 1980s, as the fourth floor upscale restaurant space gave way to a law firm and aerospace office space was ultimately transformed into a fitness center. In an attempt to remedy some of its glass facade leakage issues, the exterior of the structure sported significantly less glass than it did in the 1960s and attorney Frank Wolfe would top the structure with a two-story penthouse condominium.  In 2004, hurricanes significantly damaged the building resulting in the loss of all commercial occupants and bring a decade of structural decay. In spite of this, its demolition in 2015 would demonstrate the former significance of the Glass Bank to the community as crowds gathered to view its destruction and share stories of its glory years.