Book Cover

Saturday, December 31, 2016

An Ellis Hotel Visitor Writes

Dear Allen,

Your book arrived in the mail yesterday and I am well into it. In my eagerness to acquire more information about the fire, I didn't even take note that I had ordered it from an author! Only when I opened the book and saw the signature AND the date, did I realize it was from you!

 My only connection to the fire is that my wife and I just spent the better part of the week of Dec. 12 at the Ellis Hotel, room 1110. While touring the Georgia Capitol, we saw an exhibit regarding the Winecoff fire and a photo of a survivor, etc. While I was in high school, I participated in a similar mock government experience as some of the victims.

I had never heard of the Winecoff fire and was a bit disappointed in myself that I hadn't. After being at the Ellis several days, I happened to swing around the corner of the building to read the plaque on the south side. Holy crap, THIS was the Winecoff! I then had a very enlightening conversation with one of the managers (I believe). He did seem a bit concerned that I felt safe. I did.

Regardless, it's a tragic story, but it served as motivation to build structures smarter. My thanks to you for preserving this story and committing to the task. This involves time and work and should be acknowledged. I am greatly enjoying this book and already recommending it to friends.

Ric Frambach

Dear Ric,

Thanks for writing. The Ellis Hotel is rigged out with all the latest fire safety technology today. But in 1946 there were no fire escapes, no fire alarms and no sprinklers. The hotel's operators are well aware of the building's history as are the men and women of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. Everyone minds their Ps & Qs during routine inspections. No one cuts any corners.

It's amazing and heartening really, seventy years after the Winecoff fire, those responsible for fire safety there today are so inspired to do their best.

All best,

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Fire Service Reader Writes

Hi Allen,

I read your book "The Winecoff Fire" and it was excellent. I enjoyed the thorough and meticulous research that you and Sam did and all of the very detailed info that was included in the book. What an absolute tragedy that people thought there was such a thing as a "fireproof" building. While reading other stories about the Winecoff and Cocoanut Grove fires when I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to work in fire prevention, which is what I do now, so hopefully my contribution is somehow saving lives.

Thank you again for writing such an excellent book.
Kathy Woofter

Thank you for your kind words and good work, Kathy!
All best,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Broken Hero

Mr. Goodwin, 

My father, J.C. “Bill” Lawhon, was a firefighter at Station 4 and responded to the Winecoff.  I’m traveling to Atlanta with my husband for a business meeting and his firm has booked him at the Ellis Hotel (formerly the Winecoff).  I read your book a few years back and appreciate your attention to detail and historical information.  My father was best friends with Rick Roberts and in fact my parents, Bill and Pat, introduced Rick to his second wife, Daphne.  The often socialized together. 

After the fire my father struggled to come to terms with what he witnessed.  He once told me he was left standing once the fire cooled and thus was among those sent in to recover bodies.  This haunted him.  He left the Department about a year or so later and went into a business his brothers had started, Refrigerated Transport.  But, he was plagued with alcoholism which set in a few years later.  His time in the Army in New Guinea where he saw too much death was coupled with the Winecoff memories and this made for a hard life for him.

At times he would mention a particular scene that haunted him.  This was his phrase “that poor child had her head stuck in the toilet trying to get air and was there just charred”.  Please understand this phrase was often uttered when he was in a drunken state but I heard it often as a child and knew he’d seen things that affected him greatly.  He was a strong, tall man and once told me that had he been smaller and less strong he’d have succumbed to fatigue and dehydration the night of the fire and would not have been able to do body recovery.  He seemed to regret being tall, strong and broad shouldered. 

Now, here is my question.  I know there is a plaque at the Ellis because I took a trip and asked to see it a few years ago.  But, are there any other notable areas of the hotel I might show my husband?  Any other artifacts anywhere?
Thank you so much for keeping this story alive and relevant. 


Dear Peggy,

Thank you for writing to me. The plaque is now on the South side of the hotel.

The 2007 renovation was very thorough. So, the interior is all modernized, although the hallway configurations remain largely the same. The exterior remains mostly the same as it was when the hotel was first opened in 1913.

Thank you for sharing your story with me today, Peggy. May your father's soul rest in peace. As a hero's soul should.

All best,
Allen Goodwin