The Winecoff Hotel fire was one of the deadliest fires in United States History. It killed 119 people, including the hotel owner, and wounded hundreds. Among the victims, there were thirty of Georgia’s most promising high school students, who had come to Atlanta to attend the YMCA’s Youth Assembly at the Capitol. Winecoff Hotel is located at 176 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, and now it is known as the Ellis Hotel.
Winecoff Hotel was advertised as ‘fireproof’ because it was built on a steel structure, but the interiors were combustible. The building had no fire escapes, fire doors, or sprinklers. On the night of the incident, the flames erupted from the third floor, where a mattress and chair had been temporarily placed in the corridor, close to the stairway to the fourth floor. The fire was first noticed around 3:15 am by a bellboy. After half an hour the Atlanta firefighters were battling with the fire in cold weather to save the people. But due to lack of resources, they couldn’t save many lives. Their ladders reached only to the eighth floor, and their nets were not strong enough to withstand jumps of more than 70 feet. Many guests died on the sidewalks and in the alley behind the building. Doors and transoms were burned through on all but the fourteenth and fifteenth floors. An investigation later revealed that an open transom was closely associated with a given guest room’s ignition and contents.
24-year-old Tech student and photographer Arnold Hardy was residing near the incident side, upon hearing the sirens he rushed to the spot. He was the first photographer to document the incident. Hardy captured the fall of Daisy McCumber from building with his last flashbulb, for which he won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Photography.