The Ellis Hotel on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia is a luxury boutique hotel. There is nothing creepy inside, nothing whatsoever that would give a guest any inclination of what happened here on December 7, 1946. In fact, the commemorative plaque is actually hidden away behind a Marta entrance on the side of the hotel. A place where few people would happen upon it, in my opinion.
In The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America’s Deadliest Hotel Fire, Sam Heys and Allen B. Goodwin call the hotel Atlanta’s Titanic. The Winecoff was built in 1913 and had been boasted about as being fireproof (even though it lacked fire alarms, sprinklers, and fire escapes), just as the Titanic was said to be unsinkable. But on December 7, 1946, a mysterious fire broke out on the fifth floor and claimed 119 lives. Technically, the building was fireproof. The people inside the building, however, of course were not.
Within days of the tragedy, building and fire codes were changed all over the country to prevent something like this from ever happening again. So many things went wrong. In addition to the failures mentioned above, the Winecoff only had one central staircase (which essentially turned into a chimney during the fire). The Atlanta Fire Department only had ladders that reached to the eighth floor (of a fifteen story building).
To date, this is the worst hotel fire in North America.
Before visiting, I thought a place that had seen such tragedy would surely have some lingering effects. I felt nothing here. For the first time in a long time (on a ghost hunt that failed to produce evidence of the other side), I was glad. I told myself that these fire victims were not trapped here re-living that horrible night over and over again. They were finally able to escape the Winecoff. I gave them an internal cheer and paused to reflect upon all of our fleeting lives.
February 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm
Very nice work!
Sent from my iPad
July 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm
I disagree! I had heard nothing about the fire when I checked into my room on the 12th floor. As soon as I walked in, I sensed that I was not alone in the room. In fact it appeared that someone had just taken a nap on the bed. It also had a very heavy scent of oranges. I freaked out and switched to a room on the 6th floor. Much better!
There are ghosts in that hotel! My friend in a different room on the 12th floor. Swore he saw a maid in his room in the middle of the night.
July 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Thank you for reading! I tell you what I would have loved to experience – that hotel during renovations! Several years ago, I took a ghost tour and the tour guide repeated some great stories that the workers allegedly had relayed to her while they were working on the old hotel.
December 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm
I’m not afraid of ghosts, or buildings people claim or haunted, and most ghost stories have a logical explanation, but a few years ago in early December, I went with some family members to Atlanta and we stayed at the Ellis Hotel. I knew about the Winecoff fire because I had grown up in one of the cities that lost several young people and a teacher in the fire. I had a room on the 9th floor and didn’t hear anything strange, but my 14-year-old niece and a friend of hers, who were in the room across the hall, kept awakening during the night with a feeling there was something wrong. My niece, who had never had nightmares, awakened once screaming, and her friend, who had never had a problem sleepwalking, awakened standing near the window and both had a feeling there was “something” in the room with them. The following morning, the girls (neither of whom were given to flights of fancy) were both terrified and we insisted the hotel move them to another room, where the girls had no problems and slept like babies. I’m not saying the room where they spent the first night is haunted, but something happened to scare the bejesus out of those girls. To this day, when anyone brings up the subject of ghosts, my niece recounts about her experience at the Ellis and even now, what happened still scares her.
December 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm
Thank you for commenting. The Ellis is a fascinating place to me. I just wish the history of the building was embraced a little more by the current administration. I would like to see some sort of mini-museum in the lobby or some such.