Atlanta, GA Grand Theater Fire, Jan 1978

Atlanta GA Loew's Grand Theater Fire 1-30-1978.jpg


Atlanta (AP) -- Flames billowed Monday where Hollywood's spotlight's once played on the ornate facade of LOEW'S Grand Theater, the site of the glamorous 1939 premiere of "Gone With The Wind." Awed Atlantians lined sidewalks for the landmark theater's spectacular last show.

The fire destroyed most of the top three floors of the 86 year old theater building and soared across an alley to several floors of a modern office building.

A doctor, his hair singed by the blaze, escaped along with his office manager down a fire ladder from the top floor of the LOWE'S building. They apparently were the only ones there.

The 12-story Continental Insurance Building next door was evacuated before the fire spread there, badly damaging several floors.

Eight firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation as firemen fought four hours to contain the fire and continued late into the night fighting small blazes. The plush 2,300 seat theater, closed last summer for lack of business, occupied the back portion of the LOEW'S Grand building and received an undetermined amount of damage, although fire officials said it fared better than the seven-story front of the building.

But its future seemed bleak.

There had been talk of preserving the building as a national landmark with live shows, but a city spokesman said, "Those hopes apparently were destroyed by the fire."

DR. RICHARD FREEMAN, who discovered the fire when he smelled smoke, said he and office manager TRACY WALKER couldn't make it to an elevator and would have had no way out if firefighters hadn't gotten the ladder raised to a sixth floor window in time.

"I thank God they did," he said.

Aiken Standard South Carolina 1978-01-31