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The Hotel Congress

History: 
    The Hotel Congress
 in TucsonHistory: 
    The Hotel Congress
 in Tucson

History

The Hotel Congress, located in downtown Tucson, Arizona, was designed and constructed in 1918 by the Los Angeles architectural firm, William and Alexander Curlett. The Mission/Spanish Revival-style building was part of an expansion of Congress Street and in conjunction with the theatrical venue, the Rialto Theatre, which sits north of the hotel. The rear of the hotel faces the historic Southern Pacific train station, built in 1907. In addition to being a hotel, the Hotel Congress also houses the Cup Café restaurant, Tiger's Tap Room bar, Copper Hall private event space, and Club Congress, a world-famous music venue. The Hotel Congress and its owners, Richard and Shana Oseran, have been a key cultural institution and tireless boosters in the early-21st century redevelopment of downtown Tucson.

The hotel is known for being the site of the capture of bank robber, John Dillinger, in 1934. After a series of bank robberies in the Midwest, the Dillinger Gang arrived in Tucson to hide out. On January 22, 1934, a fire started in the basement of the hotel 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 via fire department ladders. By request of the gang, two firemen retrieved their overly heavy luggage, and later identifying who they were, which led to their capture without incident. Since 1994, the Hotel Congress has celebrated the capture of the famed bank robbers with a weekend of special events and reenactments each January.

The hotel was modified after the 1934 fire into a 40-room, two-story property from the original three-story version by noted Tucson architect Roy Place. The ensuing decades saw the hotel continue to be used by a variety of visitors and longer-term residents, until the hotel was purchased by Richard and Shana Oseran in 1985. The Oserans then spent the next 30-plus years renovating and restoring the property, and helping to define its role as the cultural hub of downtown Tucson. The Hotel Congress building was added to the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 2003, thanks largely to their dedicated work. The hotel received a Fodor's Choice distinction award in 2006 and in 2008.

Club Congress, the hotel music venue, opened in 1985 and has become a prime venue for touring bands playing in Tucson. Club Congress is regarded as being the longest-running venue of its kind, west of the Mississippi. In February 2005, the stage was completely redesigned by local artist Daniel Martin Diaz. The venue boasts four distinctly different bars, with ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons stating that Tiger's Tap Room at Hotel Congress is his favorite bar. The Tap Room is one of Tucson's favorite cowboy watering holes since 1919 and features original drawings by cowboy-artist Pete Martinez. The main bar in the club room features a 100-year-old mahogany bar top; it was originally from the Talk of the Town restaurant and bar, known for its “longest bar in Arizona.” The Cybar, once home to a cyber cafe over a decade ago, is a club off to the side of the dance floor. The Lobby Bar features over 150 different types of premium spirits and a cutting-edge cocktail menu. Club Congress' drink program focuses on fresh ingredients, classic cocktails, and unique signature drinks.

The Hotel Congress has received write-ups in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Playboy, and SPIN magazine. In June 2007, Esquire magazine named Club Congress as one of the best bars in America.

Hotel Congress, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, dates back to 1918.


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