Fire engulfing Highand Hospital’s central building. Image courtesy of the Buncombe County Public Library.

Zelda Fitzgerald Casualty of Hospital Fire, 1948

On March 10, 1948, the central building of Highland Hospital in Asheville was destroyed by fire, which swept from the facility’s kitchen through the dumbwaiter to all four floors.

Nine women, including Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, were killed.

Rescue attempts saved 11 women but others were trapped on the upper floors. According to one employee, she and her supervisor first rushed to save the helpless patients, hoping that the others would save themselves. Two women brought down by firemen died within a short while. All of the city’s fire equipment was called out to fight the fire, along with most of the off-duty personnel.

Originally known as “Dr. Carroll’s Sanatorium,” Highland Hospital was founded by psychiatrist Dr. Robert S. Carroll and treated people with mental and nervous disorders and addictions. In 1939, Carroll gave his facility to the Neuropsychiatric Department of Duke University.

Duke closed the unit in the 1980s and the complex is now an office park and shopping plaza.

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Image from Buncombe County Public Library.

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