Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ponce Press Article

The April 2014 issue of The Ponce Press features an article remembering the Winecoff Hotel fire. The Ponce Press is a monthly publication serving the well established in-town neighborhoods on Atlanta's East side including the city's most eclectic and interesting street, Ponce de Leon Avenue. The article by Bob Foreman is here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

New Survivor Photo Acquired

Anna & Edward W. Sherwood
Winecoff fire survivor Ed Sherwood, 54, of River Forest, Illinois told his story to the Chicago Tribune for Sunday's December 8, 1946 edition.

"I went to my bedroom (room 922) about 7:30 p.m. and retired, leaving a call for 8:00 a.m. I had intended to check out and leave Atlanta today. I am a light sleeper and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. hearing cries of 'fire' from the alley under my room. I opened the door but found the hall full of smoke, so I shut the door at once and plugged up the cracks with bed sheets.
"After a while the floor got so hot I could no longer stand on it. I opened a window and crawled out on the ledge. The heat from the room was so intense I managed to close the window while clinging to the edge. I could see dozens of persons from my floor and from floors above and below me also standing on window ledges. Every once in a while one of them would shriek and dive off.
"A woman was standing on a ledge next to mine. She kept crying that she was going to fall. She was just too far away for me to reach her. I pleaded with her to hang on, but it did no good. She plunged down.
"I was clinging there praying, and the heat was so intense it seemed I could not bear it another minute. Then from the office building across the alley, firemen pushed a ladder at me. They were above me and the ladder came down at about a 30 degree angle. I grabbed it and got it fixed to the ledge. Then I crawled upward across the alley to the office window."

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Maude Whiteman's Courage Recalled

Maude Whiteman
Maude Whiteman, 61, survived the Winecoff Hotel fire and saved the lives of eight others.

Whiteman operated the Winecoff Hotel's cigar shop by day but had agreed to stay in the hotel overnight to assist the elderly wife of one of the hotel's co-lessors who was away on a hunting trip.

Unable to go down, some guests were pulled up to room 1612.
Whiteman sustained back and rib injuries when she helped pull other desparate and terrified guests into her room's window via sheet ropes.

Her quick and rational thinking had kept smoke from overtaking room 1612, the hotel's uppermost room on the Peachtree-Ellis Street corner. Said Whiteman, "I never lost my head for one moment. I put our predicament up to Almighty God."

Nero Pitman carries Esther Geele
away from the fire scene.
"I could hear precious little Esther (Geele) calling, 'Mrs. Whiteman Mrs. Whiteman,' from her room (below).

"She fell into my arms when we got her up and opened those big old eyes and said, 'God owns the world'," said Whiteman.

Whiteman was the stalwart against rising panic in room 1612 and the group she sheltered lived to tell about it.

Maude Whiteman is assisted away from the
scene of America's deadliest hotel fire.
Maude Whiteman's story is told on pages 103,104 and 117 of The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire. More on the action in room 1612 is here. Wihitman's full biography is here.

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sixty-Seventh Anniversary Coverage

Atlanta public radio station WABE-FM has broadcast a story noting the sixty-seventh anniversary of the Winecoff Hotel fire. In a six minute radio piece Steve Goss interviews well known Atlanta historian Cliff Kuhn. Kuhn tells the story of the fire. To listen click here.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published a remembrance of the fire including quotes from Winecoff Fire co-author Sam Heys. The article by Andy Johnston appeared in the December 3rd edition.

Mary Marsh has written a loving remembrance of Winecoff fire victim Freda Constangy. Read it here.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Innovative Solutions

Winecoff Fire co-author Sam Heys has done it again. On the heels of Big Bets, his comprehensive history of The Southern Company, comes a more focused study of the firm's commitment to research and development. Innovative Solutions examines the Southern Company's 1969 awakening that cleaner ways to create electric power would have to be found and traces the scientific advancements that have kept the firm viable ever since. Sam Heys' newest book in now available from Click here.

Monday, September 09, 2013

A Winecoff Poem

Chet Wallace
Research assistant Chet Wallace has penned a poem. It was inspired by his study of the Winecoff fire. Wallace writes from the perspective of a fictional man whose girlfriend is lost in the fire. There were in fact, many such stories. He writes about no specific figure in the Winecoff tragedy but reveals his deep empathy for those who lost loved ones.

My Love Lost
Chet Wallace

My love made a trip.
She hoped to escape.
No bye from her lips.
No hand on my nape.
Destination was a city,
A Phoenix from the ashes.
That city went through pity,
None from her would trash it.
She made it to a hotel,
Winecoff was her name.
She made sure I not tell.
Infidelity was her aim.
She went to a tea room,
Francis Virginia was her name.
Her thought was to bloom,
A relationship just the same.
Her letter was written to me,
Telling what she did.
The man she went to see,
Unknown to me and hid.
The night was full of dread,
For fire was the cause.
Many asleep were dead,
Because of gamblin’ outlaws.
She died as others did,
No chance to avoid.
A trip that I forbid,
She surely enjoyed.
Now I’m without my love,
Never seen again.
She fit me like a glove,
My love lost, amen.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

'Til Death Do Us Part

This newly acquired photo shows newlyweds Charles and Mildred Boschung. According to family members, it was taken in the Winecoff Hotel on Friday evening December 6, 1946.

Only a few hours later the Boschungs found themselves trapped in room 1208 with fire racing up through the building towards them. They fashioned a sheet rope in hopes of reaching a ladder four floors below. Mildred was knocked from the ladder when another woman fell from room 1008. Only Charles survived.

The Boschungs Were Married One Week Before The Winecoff Fire

Their story is told on pages 52,53,134 and 224 of The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rare Postcard Acquired

Click To Enlarge

This vintage Winecoff Hotel postcard, showing early Ford automobiles, was not used for long. Note the hotel's name is misspelled.


Monday, April 01, 2013

Pioneer Hotel Fire Re-Examined

60 Minutes, the popular CBS Television News magazine, has re-examined the 1970 Pioneer Hotel fire. The facts and circumstances of the Tuscon, Arizona tragedy are eerily similar to those of Atlanta's Winecoff Hotel fire twenty-four years earlier. More here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Firefighter Jim Smith Passes

Jim Smith
Winecoff Hotel firefighter James Smith passed away today.

Smith was born in Atlanta in 1920. In the early hours of December 7, 1946 he was on duty at Atlanta's fire station number twelve, on DeKalb Avenue on the city's east side when the first alarm was sounded.

Station twelve's engine company was first dispatched to station six and immediately from there to the Winecoff fire scene. "You could see it when you came across Edgewood Bridge. Coming up Edgewood you could see the fire, it was coming out the windows then," Smith said in 2011.

Upon arrival, Smith was ordered to evacuate the hotel's guests from the lower floors, down a darkened stairway which was partially obstructed by fire hoses and cascading water. "They were scared," he remembered. Once the guests who could be evacuated were downstairs, Smith joined the fire fight on the Peachtree Street side.

Additional equipment was needed there. Smith did the heavy lifting. "We'd had to park down there at the Lowes Grand Theater," said Smith. "I mostly remember running back and forth."

James Smith's brother, Charlie Smith from fire station four also fought the fire. In 2011, on the fire's sixty-fifth anniversary, James Smith returned to the scene of the fire. There he was honored by Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran.

Jim Smith, may he rest in peace.

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