February 13, 2012

So long, Jeffrey, hello, Fred – the back story on a building’s new name

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The red-brick Jeffrey Building on Francis Street near the State House. DGS photo

The red-brick Jeffrey Building on Francis Street near the State House. DGS photo

The Board of Public Works last Wednesday renamed the Jeffrey Building a half-block down from the State House for Fred Wineland, the longest serving secretary of state in Maryland history.

Wineland was a Prince George’s County delegate and senator before Gov. Marvin Mandel named him secretary of state — the only cabinet officer established in the constitution — in 1971. The secretary gets a motley array of duties and the lowest salary of anybody in the cabinet because the legislature refuses to raise it.

Wineland, 85, is a World War II Navy Veteran and a good friend of Gov. Harry Hughes, with whom he served in the Senate. Both Gov. Parris Glendening and Hughes lobbied Gov. Martin O’Malley for the name change. Hughes “never let up,” O’Malley told Wineland after the ceremony.

But what of the poor Jeffrey for whom the building was named when it was built in 1966? It wasn’t until Wednesday that Hughes himself learned of the connection to his own career.

According to Susan Wood at the Department of General Services, the building was named Jeffrey by politically connected developer Victor Frenkil for his first grandchild, Jeffrey Krieger, son of Frenkil’s daughter Janet. Krieger now has his own architecture firm in Philadelphia.

Victor Frenkil, friend of governors, was one of the bidders to build the Baltimore subway when Hughes was secretary of Transportation in the 1970s. According to Hughes’ autobiography and newspaper accounts at the time, Frenkil’s firm was not chosen for the contract, but he used his political connections with Mandel and Comptroller Louis Goldstein — with whom he once owned some land — to work behind the scenes and scuttle the chosen contractor so he could get the business.

Gov. O'Malley presents proclamation to Fred Wineland as former Gov. Harry Hughes, right, looks on.

Gov. O'Malley presents proclamation to Fred Wineland as former Gov. Harry Hughes, right, looks on. (Governor's office photo)

After battles back and forth which delayed the award of the contract, Hughes eventually resigned as Transportation secretary in 1977, citing the political games being played over the subway contract. This established his reputation for incorruptibility in the troubled administration of Mandel, who eventually went to federal prison on an unrelated deal – later to have the conviction overturned.

So when Hughes learned of the Frenkil connection to the building and the Jeffrey name last Wednesday, he said, “I’m glad they’re taking [the name] off,” and replacing it with that of his friend and Senate colleague, Wineland.

“I was stunned when I got the news,” said Wineland, who was wearing a portable oxygen device to help him breathe. “I’m flying so high I had to bring my own oxygen.”

The state began renting the building in 1966 and purchased it from Frenkil in 1972.

–Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

  • Len Lazarick

    I got the following e-mail from Carolyn Frenkil:

    Dear Mr. Lazarick:

     

    I was dismayed by the condescending tenor
    of your above subject article and disparaging remarks about Victor
    Frenkil.  As you noted in your article, this is a structure built by Mr.
    Frenkil, owned by Mr. Frenkil  and the state did not purchase the Jeffrey
    building from Mr. Frenkil until 1972.   Why to you take
    exception to him exercising his right to name a building he owned?  And,
    why did you take this as an opportunity to imply there was something
    sinister and nefarious in naming the building after his grandson? 

     

    You laud Huges lobbying his “political
    connections” to exercise his personal retribution  against Frenkil,
    some 46 years after this structure was built, by renaming the building for his
    personal friend and former political colleague while criticizing the builder
    and owner for exercising his prerogative to name it is the epitome of an
    oxymoron.

     

    I don’t know you or your background. 
    However, I do wonder what you’ve done during your lifetime besides write
    articles such as this.  Have you ever met a payroll?  Have you ever
    built anything besides tinker toys?  Are there any landmarks which would
    not exist but for your vision and hard work?  How many lives have you
    touched?  And, how many people have you  given a hand-up to achieve
    their dreams?  Mr. Frenkil saved the Belvedere Hotel from being
    demolished.  He completed building the Golden Sands in Ocean City
    while others walked from theirs.  And, he built the Bay Bridge to name a
    few.  Most importantly, he was generous to those who were less fortunate
    than him and particularly to the African American community.  If it wasn’t
    so sad it would be amusing that reporters, such as you, never write or even
    bother to know how many lives Mr. Frenkil touched in a positive way.