Liveblog Recreates Great Atlanta Fire of 1917

The Atlanta History Center will use Tumblr to recreate the events of the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917.

To look at the area around the Oakland Cemetery today — which is flanked by the Cabbagetown and Grant Park neighborhoods — you'd be hard pressed to view the streetscapes as ravaged by fire.

But on May 21, 1917, Atlanta, a city which seen its share of fires, burned again.

The blaze, which became known as the Great Atlanta Fire, spread for 300 acres from around Oakland Cemetery to Piedmont Park and Ponce de Leon. It destroyed 1,900 buildings and led to others being destroyed in an attempt to stop the burn.

Now the Atlanta History Center is using a very modern way to teach people about the events of 1917.

The AHC is using its Tumblr page (slogan "Just because we like old stuff doesn't mean we can't be trendy") to recount the Great Atlanta Fire minute by minute. All posts related to the fire can be found here. AHC's Tumblr is full of other neat features, too, like On This Day and pictures of how Atlanta used to look.

The organization's Twitter and Facebook pages also will participate in the Great Fire liveblog. In fact, the header photo on the Facebook page shows the scope of the fire.

The liveblog is an initiative by Trevor Beemon, the AHC's Manager of Digital Communications, and Sue VerHoef, archivist at the AHC's Kenan Research Center.

"I really thought it would be interesting to take a historic event, and especially an event that people didn't know very much about...and present it in a unique way," Beemon told Steve Goss of WABE.

He said he didn't realize how much information the AHC had about the Great Fire until he looked in the archives. He found that the archives contained minute-by-minute reports of what happened, plus a wealth of photos, and he thought that pairing the photos with the reports would be a good way to present the information.

VerHoef said that many of the records of the fire have been donated, including correspondence from insurance companies.

There will be about 45 posts about the fire today. Also, on May 23, VerHoef will take questions about how the fire changed Atlanta and what the city did in the aftermath.

Both Beemon and VerHoef want to see comments and conversations about the fire, so if you want to participate, let them know what you think!


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