December 7

Winecoff Hotel Fire

December 7, 1946 - Atlanta

The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable and the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta was supposed to be 100 percent fireproof, so there was no need for fire alarms, sprinklers, and fire escapes. At least that’s how it was advertised when the hotel at 176 Peachtree street opened in 1913. But on this day in 1946, there was a need — desperate need — when 119 people died at the Winecoff in the worst hotel fire in U.S. history.

When the fire started on the third floor at 3:30 in the morning, many guests didn’t even know it until their rooms filled with smoke. Fire ladders reached only to the seventh floor of the 15-story hotel.

Arnold Hardy, a young graduate student at Georgia Tech, won a Pulitzer Prize for a picture he snapped of a woman in mid-air who had jumped from the 11th floor. Though she miraculously survived, 119 others didn’t, and many jumped to their deaths or were burned beyond recognition, including 30 teenagers in town for a youth conference.

Building codes were changed across the country because of the horrific tragedy in Atlanta on December 7, 1946, Today in Georgia History.