19 things you didn’t know about Atlanta’s past

The country’s deadliest hotel fire prompted new national safety codes

Winecoff hotel
1946: Many used sheets to climb to higher floors, or jumped from windows in attempts to escape the blaze.

Photograph by Keystone/Getty Images

Despite being dubbed “absolutely fireproof” when it was built in 1913, the Winecoff Hotel (now the Ellis Hotel) downtown had no sprinklers, fire escapes, or even alarms. In December 1946 an enormous fire engulfed the hotel, and 119 people died, including the elderly owners and 30 high school students from across the state who were in town for a mock govern­ment program. The tragedy was the final straw in a string of horrific blazes across the country, prompting President Truman to call a conference that led to the creation of modern-day fire safety codes.