On the tragic night of December 7th, 1946 the deadliest hotel fire in American history took the lives of 119 people. The owners of the Winecoff Hotel situated at 176 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia advertised a lot about the hotel’s exquisite fireproof architecture and design. Similar to the times when the creators of the RMS Titanic bragged about their completely “unsinkable” vessel.
Unfortunately, the reinforced steel structure of the building was the only completely fireproof feature of the Winecoff Hotel. It had no water sprinklers, no fire escape ladders and not even a single fire alarm. The hotel had only one big stairwell that connected all the 15 floors and was the only way out in case of an emergency. Sadly, when a devastating fire broke out on the third floor all the guests got trapped. The only exit which was the staircase suddenly became a chimney where all the noxious smoke accumulated.
In desperate attempts to escape the deadly blaze of fire many guests jumped off the building. The fire caused by a cigarette that hadn’t been stubbed out claimed the lives of nearly half of the fully booked Winecoff Hotel guests.
The accident served as a powerful example how inadequate buildings were constructed at the time. It had a dramatic effect on the fireproof regulations that President Harry S. Truman imposed a year later in 1947.