Original photographs of historic Olivia building arrived in Joplin just weeks before fire

The fire is still under investigation. There were no injuries reported.
Olivia Fire

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Olivia apartment building has sat at 320 South Moffet in Joplin since February of 1906.

“Anton Bendelari was the person who had this vision that there needed to be these places to stay close to the commercial center and so a sophisticated apartment house came to mind so he spent 150 thousand dollars, which was a tremendous amount of money to build this magnificent structure, and he hired Austin Allen, a local Joplin architect to design it” said Brad Belk, who is a part of the Joplin Historic Society and is the current Missouri Southern State University, Community Historian.

Olivia Building

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

“Those are the elite buildings in the United States and the designations are revered and very special and we also have districts and in fact it’s in the great community of Murphysburg, Murphysburg District which is also a historical district in that respect” added Belk.

Original Austin Allen photographs of the Olivia building came into the hands of Belk only a couple weeks ago.

“We have 13 photographs of the interior of the Olivia and a couple of the exterior and they’re extraordinary because to my knowledge I have never run across anything to see what the building had looked like in its first days of opening up.”

But just as a new look into the buildings history emerges, community members witnessed part of the beloved structure burn Monday night.

“On Monday night we were dispatched to 320 South Moffet for a fire on a roof. Our crews arrived being familiar with the building being the Olivia apartments. We found a five story, we knew it was vacant apartments, with fire showing on the fifth floor and was through the roof” said Joplin Fire Chief, Jim Ferguson.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the fifth floor and put out the flames by one in the morning.

Electric was connected to the building at the time of the fire, but a cause is unknown for now as crews have been unable to reach where it could have started due to extensive damage.

The fire is still under investigation. There were no injuries reported, but the building did also suffer water damage to the lower levels.

A car fire on the same day was ruled out as being in relation to the Olivia fire.

According to police, there have been incidents of trespassing in the building.

“It’s just devastating, it’s heartbreaking, we have been really actively working on that property specifically with our endangered properties program this year and we thought we had made great strides and things were moving forward for it” said Downtown Joplin Alliance, Executive Director, Lori Haun.

The Downtown Joplin Alliance has been working with developers to potentially restore the building into senior housing, but the future of that plan is now unknown.

“They are saying they aren’t necessarily out they aren’t sure at this point, obviously some assessment is going to have to be done” added Haun.

​ ​The Olivia was also listed on Missouri’s 2020 list of Places in Peril, something more true now than ever.

“That’s exactly what places of peril is, this building is in danger” said Haun.

“Historical images are vital now especially when you think about what possibly we could lose” added Belk.