The Olivia Apartments

Joplin, Missouri
Jasper County

The Olivia Apartments in Joplin, Missouri once had the reputation as the “handsomest apartment house in the west.” The five-story, red brick structure was designed by local Joplin architect Austin Allen and finished in October of 1906. Each of the 34 one and two-bedroom apartments were equipped with built-ins, fireplaces, marble bathrooms with clawfoot tubs, and French doors that opened onto private balconies.  Two eateries were housed on the 5th floor: a more formal dining room as well as a “grill room,” both open to tenants as well as the public. The Oliva operated as an apartment house for 100 years until the City of Joplin deemed it unsafe in 2006 and ordered residents to vacate. Issues caused by vacancy and neglect now place The Olivia Apartments in peril. Vines on the north side of the building have weakened the brick and mortar. Multiple break-ins and vandalism have left imprints on the structure, exacerbating water and structural damage. The roof, damaged and left open to the elements, allows pigeons to inhabit the 5th floor. Various owners over the years have made promises to restore the building to its former glory but unfortunately each has failed to follow through. While there is not a current demolition order pending, such an action has been suggested to the City of Joplin’s Building Board of Appeals. There is no known opposition to preservation of the Olivia and two local non-profits, the Downtown Joplin Alliance and Post Art Library, are working with the city’s local preservation commission to find a solution that will lead to the building’s preservation. Supporters hope that designation as a Place in Peril will encourage the owner to sell the building to a proactive and preservation-minded developer – one who will return the Olivia Apartments to their former glory.

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