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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 Hotel Congress and its owners Richard Oseran and Shana Oseran have been a key cultural institution and boosters in the early 21st Century redevelopment of Downtown Tucson.
|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.
The Hotel Congress building was added to the National Historic Register in 2003. The Hotel Congress received a Fodor's Choice distinction in 2006 and again in 2008.
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. An 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. 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" during Labor Day Weekend, the Hotel puts on a three-day, three-night live music event known as "HOCOFest". In 2008, the HOCOFest featured performances by forty live acts including The Meat Puppets. The festival was green-themed and hosted an eco-fair where local companies and vendors showcased their eco-friendly devices and wares.
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 Marinez that has been covered up since remodeling in the 1960; 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".
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.
- "Hotel Congress by AreaG2". AreaG2, Inc. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
- Haro-Gomez, Noelle. (May 29, 2013). "Hotel Congress Honors Tiger On His 80th Birthday". Tuscan Weekly. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
- 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.)