Would you stay in a hotel that advertises “absolutely fireproof”? The average person would say yes, most people think “It can’t get any safer than absolutely fireproof can it?” Well there was a problem December 7th 1946, when the Winecoff Hotel caught on fire. Opened in 1913 as the tallest building in Atlanta, Georgia. Built with a steel-framed structure making the owner think it was fireproof, but it wasn’t.
History of the Winecoff Hotel, now known as the Ellis Hotel The steel-framed structure was built on a small lot, with about 4,386 feet per floor. Guest rooms extended from the third to the fifteenth floors, with around fifteen rooms on each floor. Corridors on guest floors were set up in an H-shape, with two elevators and upward flights of stairs opening into the cross halls, and opposing downward runs of stairs converging on a single landing from the legs of the H. The stairway of non-combustible construction, was not enclosed with fire-resistant doors. In taller buildings multiple stairways were becoming common practices. Atlanta building code of 1911 permitted building lots of less than 5,000 square feet to have a single stairway. The steel structure of the building was protected by structural clay tile and concrete fireproofing. Interior partions of the building were made of hollow clay tile covered with plaster. Room doors were wood, with movable transom panels above each door for ventilation. The hotel room’s walls were finished with painted burlap fabric extending to the ceiling. Guest rooms were finished with as many as seven layers of wallpaper. The hotel did have a central fire alarm system, manually operated from the front desk, and a standpipe with hose racks at each floor, but there was no automatic sprinkler system. The fire’s point of origin was on the third floor west hallway, where a mattress and chair had supposly been temporarily placed in the corridor, close to the stairway to the fourth floor. One theory is that someone dropped a...
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