Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Get Set...Go!

The Winecoff Hotel building has at last been returned to its original purpose. It is once again a first class downtown Atlanta hotel: The Ellis on Peachtree. The lobby and the rest of the structure have been completely refurbished.

Led by Atlanta's mayor Shirley Franklin - and her fire chief - a ribbon cutting ceremony was held Wednesday October 17. On the mezzanine level invited guests mingled and enjoyed refreshments. Susan Griffin, who masterminded the redevelopment effort, moved among them. She had promised eighteen months earlier that she would remodel the building and she delivered.
Amid the crowd, conversations were occasionally punctuated by talk of the Winecoff fire. Susan Griffin doesn't shy away from the subject. Like many other builders, she learns from it.
Newspaper writers and broadcast reporters came to observe. For Winecoff Fire co-author Sam Heys it was another amazing chapter in his study of the fire. He never really expected to see the building revived. But there it was... and is.
The evening air, still holding a summer warmth, drifted in through open doors that lead to a new terrace. It overlooks Peachtree Street, just like the old one did in 1946.
A modern new sign now adorns the northeast corner of the building, where the Winecoff sign once was, and where Gladys Mitchell's fall from a sheet rope was broken by a guy wire that held it.
Upstairs, the hotel's rooms are now beautifully appointed. Two years ago room 1612 was completely trashed. Now it's called Room 1603 and it's nicer than it ever was. It's also where Gladys Mitchell began her descent and where others, who were more patient, were rescued.
"I'll believe it when I see it," voices murmured when Susan Griffin and Jay Furman first stepped onto the property eighteen months ago to announce their plan to re-develop the Winecoff Hotel building. Now, we've seen it. It took 27 million dollars and a lot of hard labor but it's happened. Amazing. It will now serve the traveling public but also sustain the memory of the fire's victims and the fire safety codes they inspired.
Listen to Sandra Parrish's WSB Radio report.

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