Monday, December 04, 2006

60 Years Ago this Week: The Winecoff Hotel Fire

All Americans remember the date December 7th as a "day of infamy" because of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, HI in 1941 that brought the United States into WWII. But in Georgia, December 7th is a day of tragedy for an additional reason.

This week, the AJC looks back at America's deadliest hotel fire, the Winecoff Hotel fire of December 7, 1946, beginning with this article by Cynthia Daniels. The Atlanta, Georgia hotel, built in 1913, was advertised as "fireproof."

In an almost Titanic-like scenerio, the supposedly "fireproof" building didn't have a sprinkler system or even fire escapes. Like the doomed ocean liner, the Winecoff tragedy would bring about sweeping changes in building safety codes.

Unfortunately, on the night of the fire, the Winecoff was filled to capacity. At least 116 people were known to have lost their lives because of the fire. From 1946 to 1971, the Winecoff Hotel fire was actually known as the world's deadliest hotel fire. The origin of the fire is still a debated topic today.

Amongst the victims were members of state high school Y Clubs. In fact, my high school has a memorial plaque on campus for several victims from my hometown. I'm sure there are similar markers in other schools around the state.

The event, the ensuing investigations, and changes in safety codes that followed inspired the book, "The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire," by Sam Heys and Allen B. Goodwin. A documentary, "Peachtree Burning," was also made.

1 comment:

Rocky said...

Thanks for the info on the documentary - it looks like it's still in production with Glass Mountain Entertainment.

When I was in college, William Orten Carlton - aka Ort - was researching the Winecoff. He regularly mentioned the fire in his columns in Flagpole. I've always wondered what happened to his project.