Winecoff Hotel Fire

The Winecoff is best known for a fire that occurred there on December 7, 1946, in which 119 people died.

It remains the deadliest hotel fire in U.S. history, and prompted many changes in building codes. Guests at the hotel that night included teenagers attending a Tri-Y Youth Conference, Christmas shoppers, and people in town to see Song of the South. Arnold Hardy, a 26-year-old graduate student at Georgia Tech, became the first amateur to win a Pulitzer Prize in photography for his snapshot of a woman (later identified as survivor Daisy McCumber) in mid-air after jumping from the 11th floor of the hotel during the fire.

The windows of the 15-story Winecoff Hotel were backlit by orange flames. Guests--jumping out of panic or falling from makeshift ropes of bedsheets as they tried to escape the terrible smoke--were landing and dying on Peachtree Street. Amid the pandemonium and a cacophony of sirens, Hardy went to work. He took a shot that spanned the front of the building and the faces of the doomed in the windows--the mutely pleading, hopeless faces.

When he was down to his final flashbulb--one had exploded in the cold night air--Hardy decided to try for a picture of a falling or jumping guest. When his viewfinder found a dark-haired woman falling midair at the third floor, her skirt billowing, he snapped the shutter open for 1/400th of a second.