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  • Laci Barry Post

Fire at the Winecoff! The Deadliest Hotel Fire in U.S. History

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

When visiting the Little White House recently, our tour guide told us about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s great fear of fire, which affected his design of the house. While we all fear fire, we do not have the same fear as people in the early 1900s did, and their fears were justified. In Songbird, I wrote about the devastating day a fire destroyed the Alabama Hotel in Anniston, AL, killing a soldier’s wife who was visiting her husband stationed at Ft. McClellan.

During my research for Song of Return, I encountered another hotel fire, this one even more horrific. More than seventy years ago, on December 7, 1946, the deadliest hotel fire in United States history took place in Atlanta, GA. The fifteen-story Winecoff Hotel burned down, killing 119 of its guests. One of the victims was 23-year-old Harold Irvin. Harold served as a torpedo bomber pilot for the Navy during World War II and was in Atlanta visiting friends. How sad to survive the war only to lose your life in a fire at such a young age.

The Winecoff Hotel fire did bring about some good. Many of our fire safety codes today were put in place as a result of this tragic event. President Roosevelt would appreciate that! To learn more about the fire, visit

Ava heard the radio come on. An advertisement for Bromo Selzer ended, and a male

radio broadcaster began delivering the morning news.

“On this day, December 7, 1946, disaster strikes again in the United States, but this time in Atlanta, GA. Around 3:15 this morning, a fire began at the fifteen-story Winecoff Hotel. It is believed that 119 of the 280 hotel guests have died. Many more are injured.”

Song of Return, Chapter 9

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