5-Story Olivia Apartment Building burns just off Downtown Joplin

Joplin News First

Named in October 2020 a Place in Peril by the Missouri Alliance of Historic Preservation

JOPLIN, Mo. — Shortly before 9:45 PM Joplin Emergency Communications were alerted to reports of a structure fire to the west of Downtown Joplin, 320 South Moffet.

As firefighters approached a second alarm was sounded as heavy smoke and flames were observed, the multi-story building, The Olivia Apartments.

Redings Mill Fire District were requested to assist in the south of the city. Also some Battalion Chiefs and staff were called in to assist in other areas since so many firefighters were already on the scene.

It was built back in 1906 by Anton Bendelari — a civil and mining engineer from Canada — who moved to Joplin during the mining boom. He named the building after his mother.

Click for the latest story from October 2020 when the Missouri Alliance of Historic Preservation named the Olivia a Place of Peril.

FSHP

The Olivia was best known for its 5th floor restaurants, marble baseboards, and decorative painting on the ceiling.

In our October 2020 FSHP article on the Olivia, Jill Sullivan, Executive of Director of Post Art Library, said, “Well it makes me sad on a personal level because it’s not just about the building, like I said its about the cultural landscape the fabric of our community. Its about the building and all the stories and the people that go along with the building.”

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The building has not been occupied since the 1990s. Numerous attempts have been mounted to save it like other downtown buildings. Now it appears it’s too late.

Two ladder trucks set up along Moffett on the NE and SE corners of the building. No firefighters were injured battling the fire, and notably so, no firefighters entered the building. Joplin Fire Chief James Furgerson told us afterwards.

“I decided right from the beginning this would be a defensive fire.”

Joplin Fire Chief James Furgerson

Chief Furgerson was already in town at the Joplin City Council Meeting where he spoke briefly about the purchase of the new Ladder Truck 7, which will be bought in 2021 to go along with Station 7, yet to be built.

Fire was declared under control at 12:00 midnight. And fire was declared out at 1:10 AM.

The Olivia Apartments, located at 320 Moffet in Jasper County, Missouri, is locally
significant under National Register Criterion C in the area of ARCHITECTURE. When
mining mogul A. E. Bendelari moved to Joplin at the turn-of-the-century he discovered
and developed one of the richest mines in the area. His success led him to invest
$150,000 into one of the first luxury apartment houses in the city, which was seen as an
“encouraging indication of the faith of Joplin’s own citizens”‘ in the boomtown’s
continued growth. Designed by local architect Austin Allen in 1906, the Olivia
Apartments are a representative example of the luxury and sophisticated craftsmanship
that made Allen a prominent figure in Joplin and across Missouri. Constructed by Dieter
and Wenzel, the building incorporated technological and spatial developments that
became synonymous with the firm’s grand Joplin structures and manifests the quality workmanship, the company boasted across the country. As an apartment hotel the
building catered to wealthy clientele, offering services and amenities to both tenants
and the visiting public unlike any other local apartment house of the time. The 1906
period of significance represents the building’s construction period.

With few alterations and little upkeep, the building fell into disrepair. In 1981 a couple from California, Jim and Elizabeth Hadley, and Jim’s brother Jack Hadley, decided to restore the building to its former splendor. Repainting and refinishing the lower levels, the Hadley’s worked hard to preserve the building’s historical elements, and plans were drawn to turn the fifth floor dining room into a penthouse.24 In 1996 the city threatened to vacate the building if the owner did not comply with electrical and fire code updates. The building’s owner promised to fix the problems, but ten years later the city declared the Olivia unsafe and the owner ordered an evacuation of all tenants, some who had lived there for nearly half a century.

OLIVIA APARTMENTS, JASPER COUNTY, MISSOURI, NATIONAL REGISTRY OF HISTORIC PLACES

Power is out to some of the Downtown area.

We will update our story right here on our FSHP news tab as it is released by the Joplin Fire Department. Click to save a bookmark on your phone. We post new stories 24/7 and update current stories without notice at anytime.

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