While the collapse of the elevated portion of Interstate 85 has been a major inconvenience for people traveling through the region around Atlanta, it can hardly compare to the devastation that affected our city 100 years ago this month.
May 21st will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 which raged for approximately 10 hours, burned more than 300 acres, destroyed more than 1,900 buildings (mostly wood-frame), wore out firefighters’ horse teams, and was only stopped by dynamiting buildings to create a firebreak, leaving 10,000 people homeless in its wake.
In the February issue of Atlanta Magazine writer Rebecca Burns shares a vivid glimpse into our city’s past, bringing famous Atlantans like Mayor Asa Candler, future Mayor William B. Hartsfield, and author Margaret Mitchel spring to life in the shadow cast by the blaze that consumed Atlanta’s neighborhoods and the history of the Fourth Ward.
Better yet, Burns’ article recounts the events following the aftermath of the fire, all the way up to the present day, providing a good context for understanding how far this part of the city has come since that terrible day 100 years ago.
Two years ago the Atlanta Public Radio station WABE ran a piece about a new festival happening in the Old Fourth Ward called “Fire in the Fourth”, created to commemorate the tragedy that befell that ward nearly a century ago – and this year will mark the 100 year anniversary of the event, and if festival organizers are on top of things it may prove to be a very big deal.
If you’re intrigued by this story I found a historical fiction mystery novel called “Enemy Fire”, written by Rosemarie Szostak, take a look!