Terminal Hotel Fire
May 17, 1938
38 HOTEL GUESTS PERISH IN A FIRE AT ATLANTA, GA.
Early Morning Blaze Claims Victims in Sleep – Scores
Missing or Injured.
ATLANTA. (AP). A pre-dawn fire that turned the 30 year
old Terminal hotel into a flaming horror in ten minutes
killed 27 persons and left a score more missing or injured.
Engineers estimated it might be two days before the wreckage
was cleared and the full toll determined. The hotel register
The blaze broke out in the basement of the five story brick
and frame building about 3 a. m., when most of its guests
were asleep. Flames and smoke shot skyward and in a moment
every floor was ablaze. Home to many railroad men, the $1
and up a day hotel was situated opposite the terminal station
on Spring st., in downtown Atlanta. Traffic for blocks around
was jammed as police roped off the area against danger of
falling walls. Thousands, some of them relatives, pressed
against the fire lines, thruout [sic] the day.
Bellhop Charlie Labon, a veteran of 20 years service, was
in the lobby when the blaze caught. He said he heard a kitchen
messboy scream: "Oh lawdy, fire" then there was
a muffled blast below and flamed puffed upward.
Labon dived for the elevator and Ben L. Berry, 78 year
old clerk turned to the switchboard to warn the guests.
But the blaze burned out the connections.
Flames Spread Rapidly.
“The flames spread so quickly I had to jump from the
elevator cage on the second floor and run,” said Labon.
“Berry got burned trying to ring the phones. There
wasn’t anyone got out except those that jumped or
got down the fire escape.”
Several were killed leaping from the flaming building.
The fire choked off fire escapes and stairs a few seconds
after it caught.
WILLIAM OSCAR WEBSTER, a Columbus, Ga., railroad engineer,
jumped from a fourth floor window. His body tumbled across
the street. He was dead when rescuers reached him. One victim
was found dead on a second floor ledge of the hotel court,
where he had struck in a leap for safety. Some were burned
to death and others suffocated. Many of the bodies were
horribly mangles in the collapse of floors and steel work.
Firemen told of finding one group, apparently a family.
A woman dead in a rocking chair, a little girl knelt by
the bead and a man and a little boy lay stretched across
Back to Hotel Fires
One couple, awakened by the smell of smoke, escaped by climbing
thru a second floor window and walking a narrow ledge 200
feet to a corner where a ladder was placed.
George P. Jones, hotel manager, said at a hospital he was
“too sick to talk.” but estimated at least 75
persons were in the structure.