Austin Allen, Architect
Dieter Wetzel, Builder
Listed on the National Register in 2008
The Olivia had a well-deserved reputation as the “handsomest apartment house in the West.” Arthur Bendelari, a civil and mining engineer from Canada, moved to Joplin during the mining boom. He commissioned architect Austin Allen and the contracting firm Dieter and Wenzel to construct this 5-story, $150,000 masterpiece. Construction began February of 1906, and it was open in October that same year.
Arthur Bendelari had a reputation for being a well-liked charmer. He owned one of the town’s first automobiles, and he would race anyone anytime, especially if it involved wagering. He named the Olivia after his mother, Mary Olivia Bendelari.
Decorated in “Pompeian fashion,” the public spaces of the Olivia sparkled with solid Italian marble. The lobby decor impressed all who crossed the threshold where mosaic tiles spelled out “Olivia.” Passing through the elaborate rotunda, visitors entered the reception room, finished in old ivory and lit by skylights and a large leaded glass window with the name “Olivia” expertly crafted in multi-colored glass. A highly polished oak staircase spiraled up from the lobby, connecting all five floors. Electric elevators, both passenger and freight, also provided easy access to all parts of the building. A uniformed attendant provided 24-hour elevator service.
The red brick Olivia comprised 34 one and two-bedroom apartments, for a total of 110 rooms. Some of the larger apartments had almost 2,000 square feet of living space. All of them featured built-ins, fireplaces, marble bathrooms with claw-foot tubs, and every labor-saving device known at the time. Tenants enjoyed bright airy rooms with French doors opening onto private balconies. A roof garden overlooked the city, affording spectacular views in all directions. On clear days, one could even see Webb City. Trolley lines ran down 4th Street, right next to the building, taking residents wherever they wanted to go.
The Olivia’s Current Situation:
The Olivia is listed as a Place in Peril. Read more about recent updates here.