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.