26 Guests Die in Hotel Fire
Blaze in Basement of Thirty-Year-Old Atlanta, Ga., Hotel Flared Through Building and Cut Off Escape of Many Persons
WHILE thousands of persons looked on, and the Atlanta, Ga., Fire Department did all they could to carry out rescue work, twentysix guests of a thirty-year old hotel, were burned to death, or died later from their injuries.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is the belief of Chief O. J. Parker that a boiler in the basement exploded. The rapidity with which fire spread from the basement to the roof of the five-story brick and frame building, seems to substantiate the theory that flames were blown all over at once. The fire started at 3 a.m., May 17, while most of the sixty-five guests were asleep. The Terminal Hotel was near the railroad station and housed many railroad men. It was a one-dollar-a-day-and-up type of hostelry.
A bellhop, of many years’ service, was in the lobby when the fire broke out. He claims that he heard a messboy scream, “Oh, Lawdy, fire!” There was a muffled blast and flames spread upward. He rushed for the elevator to bring down guests. Fire spread so rapidly that he was forced to abandon the cage on the second floor and run for the fire escape.
The seventy-eight-year old clerk ran for the switchboard to warn the guests. The blaze burned out the connections, and the clerk was badly burned before he could get away.
When the first fire companies arrived, persons were at the front windows frantically calling for help. Heat and smoke hampered firemen in getting rescue work started.
Alarms were sounded in rapid succession. Firemen arrived to find the building a mass of flames. Flames played over fire escapes on the Mitchell Street side and at the rear so that they were useless. Firemen were able to bring some persons down ladders. A few slid down ropes. Many escaped by jumping. Those who tried to escape by way of the stairs or the fire escape were burned to death.
The fire was declared officially out twelve hours after the first alarm had been sounded.
Only the shell of the building was left. Firemen and rescue workers removed heavy pieces of debris in searching for bodies of victims. It was a slow job. Bath tubs, beds, and doors were piled up in hopeless confusion. Bodies that were discovered were mangled and charred almost beyond recognition.
A tractor and a hoist were furnished by the county to help in lifting large timbers.
A blackened wallet or a little notebook would be found as a clue to some one who had died in the fire. The hotel register was destroyed and identification of the missing was difficult.
Fourteen persons were saved by sliding down a rope dangling from a painter’s scaffold that was suspended near the roof.
Three floodlights were used to illuminate the wrecked interior.
It was the most disastrous fire in the history of the city. When news of the fire spread, many of the residents turned out to watch it. An estimate was made that from five to ten thousand persons were jammed against the police lines.
Blackened ruins are all that is left of the famous hotel, that was the first hotel to greet the visitors to the city as they left the railroad station.