Week 5 - Pulitzer 1946 - The Winecoff Hotel Fire - Arnold Hardy
by, 10-30-2008 at 04:07 PM (23299 Views)
For week 5 we take a break from the war, 4 x 5 cameras and from press photographers.
Arnold Hardy - The Winecoff Hotel Fire
Camera 2 x 3 Speed Graphic
Shutter & Aperture Flash @ f4.5
The Wincoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia was advertised as fireproof despite not being fitted with sprinklers, fire escapes or alarms. It was built in 1913 and is the site of the worst hotel fire in American history and second worst in the world.
Arnold Hardy was a student at the time. He was returning home on 7 December 1946 after a date and heard the sirens of fire engines. Being a keen amateur photographer he rang the fire department for the location and caught a taxi to the scene. He carried his 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 Speed Graphic, a little smaller than the normal press 4 x 5's, and 5 flash bulbs.
At the scene he was awestruck by the desperation on display from the occupants of the building. The fire trucks could only reach floor 9 of the 15 floor building. Guests tried to escape by tying bed sheets together that gave way leaving them tumbling to the ground. Some tried to jump a 10 foot gap to the next building but failed. A desperate mother threw her two children from a window and then jumped herself. All three died. It was a horrific scene on the ground and up on the higher floors.
Hardy made a few photos and was watching the scene as he heard a shriek. Turning up he saw a woman falling to the ground. He pointed his camera and fired his last bulb just as she was passing the third floor. Her body hit a pipe then bounced into a railing and fell to the ground. She miraculously survived. 119 others sadly did not.
Most of the survivors on the upper floors were the wise ones who blocked the cracks around their doors to prevent the smoke overcoming their rooms. I guess there's a lesson in there for all of us.