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The Hotel Congress is a federally-recognized historic building located in downtown Tucson. It was built in 1918 and designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm William and Alexander Curlett as part of an expansion of Congress Street and in conjunction with the theatrical venue Rialto Theatre, which sits north of Congress Street. The rear of the building faces the historic Amtrak Southern Pacific train station, built by Southern Pacific in 1907. In addition to being a hotel, the Hotel Congress building also houses a restaurant, bar and music venue. The name "The Congress Hotel" was chosen through a naming competition organized by the Arizona Daily Star newspaper in 1918. The winning suggestion was announced on April 30, 1918, and it was submitted by Dorit Dinkel, who won $15 worth of baby bonds for having their name chosen. The Hotel Congress and its owners since 1985, Richard Oseran and Shana Oseran, have been a key cultural institution and boosters in the early 21st Century redevelopment of Downtown Tucson.
Historic Hotel Congress
|Location||311 E Congress St., Tucson, Arizona, United States, 85701|
|Opening||November 18, 1918|
|Owner||Richard and Shana Oseran|
The Hotel is known for being the site of the capture of gangster and bank robber John Dillinger in 1934. After a series of bank robberies, the Dillinger Gang arrived in Tucson to hide out. On January 22, 1934, a fire started in the basement and spread up to the third floor, where the gang resided under aliases. After the desk clerk contacted them through the switchboard the gang escaped by aerial ladders. On the request of the gang, two firemen retrieved their luggage, identifying who they were. After being transferred to a jail in Crown Point, Indiana, Dillinger escaped again and was eventually shot down in Chicago, Illinois.
According to the National Registration listing, Alexander and William Curlett, Curlett and Son Architects of Los Angeles were the actual designers/architects. A newspaper article from the Arizona Daily Star, dated April 23, 1920, reported:
A. E. Carlette (Curlett), architect of Los Angeles, was a visitor in Tucson yesterday stopping at the Santa Rita. Mr Carlette (Curlett) was the designer of the new Rialto Theatre and the Congress Hotel.
In early 1934 a fire destroyed the upper floor of the hotel, while John Dillinger and his gang were hiding out. Roy Place, local Tucson architect, rebuilt the upper floor in the same style as the original. A historic plaque on the south entrance of the hotel bears Place's name so it is often believed to be of his original design.
In 1985, a music venue was opened in the hotel, and has become a prime venue for touring bands playing in Tucson. In February 2005, the stage was completely redesigned by local latino artist Daniel Martin Diaz, and it was named Best Functional Art Installation by Tucson Weekly in 2006. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons has said that the Tap Room at Hotel Congress is his favorite bar.
Club Congress is regarded as being the longest-running venue of its kind west of the Mississippi, and, in part because of this distinction, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano issued a proclamation on July 25, 2005, that Labor Day Weekend would be known as "Club Congress Weekend". In 2004, the hotel's entertainment director David Slutes started a three-day, three-night live music event known as "HOCO Fest". In 2008, HOCO Fest featured performances by forty live acts including The Meat Puppets, and has gone on to feature many globally renowned musical acts like Andrew W.K., Lil B, Tommy Wright III and Omar Apollo. The festival is centered around showcasing local artists and culture, and brings tourism to Tucson at a historically dead time of year. In 2019, the web magazine CVLT Nation called HOCO Fest "The Best Fest You'll Ever Go To".
Club Congress has four distinctly different bars: The Tap Room, one of Tucson's favorite cowboy watering holes since 1919 - this bar features original drawings by cowboy-artist Pete Martinez, the ceiling boasts a mural by Martinez that has been covered up since remodelling in the 1960s; The main bar in the club room, featuring a 100-year-old bartop that was originally located in the "Talk of the Town" bar and named for its original length and exquisite wood columns; The Cybar, a club off to the side of the dance floor, once home to a cyber cafe over a decade ago; and the Hotel Lobby Bar, featuring over 150 different types of premium spirits & a cutting-edge cocktail menu. Like many high-profile on-premise establishments across the country, Club Congress' drink program focuses on fresh ingredients, classic cocktails and unique signature drinks.
The Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress won the 2010 World Margarita Championship at the Tucson Culinary Festival, where bartender Harold Garland and Beverage Director Aaron DeFeo's margarita, "Marguerite Nouveau" won over the judges with its Solerno Blood Orange culinary foam. Hotel Congress and the Cup Cafe also garnished "Best Cocktail Menu" in the Tucson Weekly's "Best of Tucson 2010". In 2015, Cup Cafe's cast iron baked eggs won Best Breakfast Dish from the Arizona Foodist Awards.
On May 27, 2013, Bartender Thomas "Tiger" Ziegler celebrated his 80th birthday. Tiger has been a bartender at the Hotel Congress Tap Room since 1959, and to commemorate the occasion, The Tap Room has been renamed Tiger's Tap Room.
The hotel has basically maintained the inside decor as it was during the 1930's when the notorious gangster John Dillinger and his gang were arrested in 1934.
- Eubank, Johanna. "10 things you may not know about the Hotel Congress as it turns 100". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- "Hotel Congress celebrates 100 years". KGUN. 2018-11-12. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- Guides, Fodor's Travel (2015-11-10). Fodor's Arizona & the Grand Canyon. Fodor's Travel. ISBN 978-1-101-87904-7.
- Ring, Al; Bob (October 2015). "The Hotel Congress Fire and the Capture of John Dillinger" (PDF). Tucson Fire Foundation.
- Nequette, Anne M.; Jeffery, R. Brooks (2002). A Guide to Tucson Architecture. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0-8165-2083-1.
- 311 E. Congress St., Tucson Downtown / 4th Ave / University Arizona; 32.22229;-110.96666; 624-5019; location!, Be the first to review this. "Best Functional Art Installation 2006". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
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- Meghan. "Why HOCO is the best fest you'll ever go to". CVLT Nation. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- "Pete Martinez (1894-1971) Biography | Medicine Man Gallery". Medicinemangallery.com. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- "The Hotel Congress". Historic Hotels of America. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
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- says, Rita Connelly (2010-10-29). "Winner of the Tucson Margarita Championship Is…". Circle of Food. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- Boegle, Jimmy. "Best of Tucson® 2010". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- Hoch, Heather. "Hotel Congress Wins Best Breakfast Dish at the Arizona Foodist Awards". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- "Esquire's Best Bars in America, 2007". Esquire. 2007-05-21. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- Haro-Gomez, Noelle. (May 29, 2013). "Hotel Congress Honors Tiger On His 80th Birthday". Tuscan Weekly. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
Media related to Hotel Congress at Wikimedia Commons
- Official Hotel Congress website
- For more on the original architectural firm, William Curlett and Son: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~npmelton/lacurl.htm
- Aleck Curlett, William Curlett's son, was still working under the family firm of William Curlett and Son. William died in 1914, and the hotel was designed in 1918. ("History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs" by James Guinn, published 1915.)