Ollivier J. Vinour

Web Master's note:
Most of this information comes from a letter to the Fox Theatre's Restoration Director, Rick Flinn from Olliver Vinour's eldest daughter, Lydia in 1991.

Ollivier J. Vinour (he spelled his name this way to avoid being called "Oliver") was born in Hauteford France, in the Dordogne area, on March 19, 1889 and at an early age, the family relocated to Paris. He was the second eldest in a family of four girls and three boys. As a teenagers, he was educated at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Decortatifs in Paris.

In 1906, at the age of 17, he began working at an architectural firm in Paris, presumably as a student apprentice. Vinour entered into mandatory military service in 1911 as a reservist in the "ler Compagne d'Aviation" In 1913, he was employed by an "Architect dimplome du Gouvernment"  and an "Architect des Monuments Historiques" in Blois, LeHavre, and Angers. In 1914, he married Marie-Louise Laurant. He saw active duty during the Great War (now known as World War I). Due to surgery (we do not know if this was war-related or not) he was furloughed in 1917, one year prior to the end of the war.

After the war, he accepted a position in an architectural firm in Detroit Michigan in 1919. This was done through the auspices of an Americna Army officer he had met during the war. His wife and daughter Lydia joined him in Detroit in 1920.  In 1922, his resume shows him working for an architect with offices in Miani and West Palm Beach Florida. He resided in West Palm Beach for five years in a house of his own design. During this period, Vinour and his family became United States Citizens and Marie gave birth to his second daughter.

In 1926 Olliver and his family settled in Atlanta Georgia and became the minor partner of the Marye, Alger, and Vinour, an architectural firm. It was during this period that he entered an architecture contest to design the Yaarab Temple Atlanta Shrine Mosque. Vinour designed a flamboyant interpretation of a mosque with onion domes, towers, horseshoe and lancet arches, and minarets. Amazingly, Vinour had never visited the Middle East and relied on books and illustrations to influence and inspire his Mosque creation. It is widely acknowledged that Mr Vinour was responsible for the majority of the Mosque's design with minor input from P. Thornton Marye. The presentation was so strong, nothing else compared to it and Vinour's design was the clear winner.

This illustration is Vinour's original design for the Yaraab Temple Mosque. While it is readily identifiable as what we now call "The Fox Theatre", it is a bit different from how the building eventually came to be. This is the view looking at the build from southern Peachtree Street looking north, over an open field seeing the front of the building running alongside Kimball Street (now Ponce DeLeon Ave). While slightly out of proportion, the building can be divided into two sections. The right side, facing Peachtree Street is the Mosque portion of the building. The left side, beginning under the massive Onion Dome, is the auditorium portion of the structure.

In an interview in the Atlanta Journal Magazine of February 16, 1930, P. Thornton Marye elaborated on the inspirations for the design: "The purpose was to retain the spirit of Islam throughout, and yet to use all types of Mohammedan architecture that might be seen by a pilgrim on his journey to Mecca, whether he came to the Holy City from the east, north or south. Thus the arcade entrance with shops on either side was designed after the fashion of a Persian bazaar." Although the building is in no way a copy of any one Oriental structure it tries to embody the entire scope of Mohammedan Art. The Mosque was designed to be utterly incredible, unlike any other Shrine Mosque in the World!

During his association with Marye, Alger, and Vinour, Vinour designed the Atlanta Railroad Terminal Building, Atlanta City Hall, and the Southern Bell Headquarters among other many notable and highly aclaimed buildings. In a touch of future irony, Vinour was designing the Southern Bell Headquarters at the same time he was working on the Shrine Moque project.

During the Great Depression, Vinour worked where he could find employment, including a stint in Georgia Institute of Technology's Architectural Department, working under Professor Harold Rush-Brown. He worked there offering critiuqes of submitted architectural renderings. He also worked for the US Army Public Building Procurement Division of the U.S. Treasury Department, where he did work at Fort McPherson, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. He also worked with various architectural and engineering firms that wokred on army bases in Jacksonville, Florida, Meridian, Mississippi, and Augsuta, Georgia.

In 1945, Vinour relocated his family to Dallas, Texas where he was associated with architect, George Dahl and later Mark Lemon & Associates as an Associate.

In 1951 he was on his way to Austin (about 175 miles south of Dallas) for an on-site planning session for the Student Union Building at the University of Texas at Austin. They were hit head-on by a car containing seven youths who had just left a roadside bar. The driver was drunk and swerved into the wrong side of the road, into Vinour's path with no time for Vinour to react. Olliver Vinour and his associate were killed instantly. Vinour was 62 when he died.

Lydia Vinour reflected on her memories of her "Papa". She wrote that Ollivier was a huge film buff and loved to take his children to the Saturday matinees and derived as much excitment from the serial cliff-hangers as the children did. He was very gregarious and a consumate Ham. He was always ready and eager to take part in any amateur dramatic production that was put on by the various clubs he belonged.  He loved to play a court jester. Olliver loved music and could pick out tunes on the piano. He could also play the saxphone, the mandolin, and the violin. He was a lover of good food, but when he was working on a project, he would be so consumed by his work, he would forget to eat or what he did eat. 

While he was very generous to charities, he was a frugal man. Ludia noted that he would carefully open mailed envelopes so they could be flattened, the later used as scratch paper. He could be abscent-minded at times. One of this constant characteristics that would drive his wife to distraction was a habit of pocketing small napkins that were distributed with refreshments at social functions. (Back then, the napkins were cloth, so they were washed and reused. They were not meant to be disposable!) Mrs. Vinour was always having to return napkins she found in his coat pockets. It occurred so much, Ludia still claims to have some of those stray napkins!

Vinour was very civic minded and belonged to many fraternal and social orgainzations. He was a member of Atlanta's French Alliance, the Studio Club, the Lion's Club, and during World War II, he helped establish Atlanta headquarters for the Free French.

Most of all, Lydia remembers his tremendous curiousity and his habit of being an ineterate student that was always taking courses to expand his knowlege. Lydia remembers that his last fascination was the temples of AnghorVat in Cambodia. He had complies several note books on the subjest that were eventually lost in a family move.

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