Hotel Congress

 Hotel Congress Is an Historic Place Among Hotels in Tucson

A Step Back in Time

Hotel Congress Tucson azThe Hotel Congress is situated in the downtown area Tucson, Arizona. Not to any one’s surprise, on Congress Street. Built along with the Rialto Theatre in 1919, across the street from the hotel.

The rear of the Hotel Congress faces the historic Amtrak station, built by Southern Pacific in 1907.

Hotel Congress would have continued as just another ordinary hotel in the little town of Tucson AZ, had the events of January 22, 1934, not occurred.

Dillinger Gang in Tucson AZ

Perhaps the most noteworthy event at the hotel is the capture of John Dillinger in 1934. That event gave the Hotel Congress a distinctive place in the history of Tucson Arizona.

In the early morning of January 22, a fire began in the basement of the hotel. The fire spread up the elevator to the 3rd floor. The fire initiated a rather random chain events that lead to the capture of one of the country’s more notable criminals.

As Paul Harvey would have said, “and now for the rest of the story”. Dillinger and his gang had committed a series of bank robberies throughout the Midwest. The Dillinger gang decided to go to Tucson AZ to hide out for a while.

Dillinger and his gang were staying on the third floor of the Hotel Congress. Needless to say, the gang had registered using aliases.

A fire broke out and the Tucson fire department arrives and evacuates upper floor guests using aerial ladders.

During the evacuation process, two firemen were asked to go back into the Hotel Congress to recover some travel luggage. The request came from a member of the Dillinger gang. Following a brief dialogue and a large tip, two firemen retrieved the heavy luggage.

It was later discovered the bags contained guns and over $20,000 in cash.

The Capture

But there is more to the story. Just a short time later, one of the firemen recognized the gang member from pictures in True Detective Magazine. The fireman notified the Tucson police.

Due to the fire, the gang could not reenter Hotel Congress.  So, they found a nearby home to stay at. The police went to the home on North Second Avenue and after a brief stakeout captured Dillinger.

This all took place in about a 5-hour period. Through a pretty bizarre sequence of events, and without firing a single shot, John Dillinger was captured by the Tucson police.

Something the police forces of several states and the FBI had failed to do.

When captured, Dillinger was to have muttered, “Well, I’ll be damned”.

Capturing Dillinger and his gang was a big deal for the small town of Tucson Arizona. So much so that Tucson still celebrates Dillinger’s capture on third weekend in January every year.

Tucson’s Dillinger Days is a fun event with reenactments of that day, food, beverages, music, tours and lectures.

Hotel Congress Remains Prominent in Tucson AZ

Hotel Congress was added to the National Historic Register in 2003. It was also recognized by Fodor’s in 2006 and 2008.

In 1985, a music venue was opened in the hotel. Hotel Congress is now 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.

Former Arizona Governor Napolitano proclaimed in July 2005 that Labor Day Weekend would be known as “Club Congress Weekend”.  Since then, on Labor Day Weekend, the Hotel puts on a three-day, three-night live music event known as “HOCOFest”.

Within the Hotel Congress building, Club Congress are 4 unique bars.

– Tap Room. This notable bar in the makes the Congress Hotel one of the most recognized hotels in Tucson. It has been a favorite place to be in Tucson and cowboy watering hole since 1919.

– Main bar in the club room with a 100-year-old bar top.

– The Cybar. This small club is just off the dance floor. Over a decade ago it was home to a cyber cafe.


– Hotel Lobby Bar. The Congress Hotel lobby bar offers over 150 different premium spirit along with an extensive cocktail menu. Like many high-profile on-premises establishments across the country, Club Congress’ focuses on fresh unique and memorable libations.

And for dining, you must try the Cup Cafe. Open 7 days a week from 7AM. The food is great and the deserts – fantastic!

Next time you are in Tucson, consider a stay at Hotel Congress. A historic spot and interesting surroundings.


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