The Olivia had a well-deserved reputation as the “handsomest apartment house in the West.” Auther 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. The structure, begun in February of 1906, opened in October that same year. The Joplin Globe lauded it as Bendelari’s “monumental testimonial to the universal confidence in Joplin’s future.” The newspaper reporter could not find enough superlatives to adequately describe the Olivia, boldly claiming that “nothing more elegant, more stylish, more convenient has ever been erected in Joplin.”
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.
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.
A prominent feature of the Olivia was its 5th floor eateries. The Olivia employed a world-class chef, who affirmed that the kitchen’s arrangement and equipment was unrivaled by any hotel in the West. The attractive dining room, with its dark oak floor and 6-foot high quarter-sawn oak paneling, was flooded with light from massive windows on three sides. Above the oak wainscot, hand painted murals decorated the 12-foot high walls and ceiling surfaces. Large oak tables and leather-upholstered oak chairs furnished the area, which totaled 5,000 square feet, including the kitchen. For those who preferred less formal dining, the “grill room,” also on the 5th floor, offered broiled meats and prompt service. It, too, was decked out with 6-foot high oak paneling, marble baseboards, and decorative painting on the ceiling. The eateries were open to the public as well as to tenants of the building.