First opened in 1919, the hotel may best be known as the site of bank robber John Dillinger’s legendary capture in 1934. Since 1994, the hotel has celebrated the anniversary of this event each year. 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 also houses a restaurant, bar and music venue. In 2003, the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
This historic hotel has been part of many of the changes related to the development and growth of downtown Tucson. Its location was selected due to its proximity to the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. Like many other downtown hotels, its fortunes declined and rebounded with the rise of interstate hotels and the recent interest in downtown revitalization.
With Congress Street's growth in Tucson in the early 1900s, plans were made to construct both a hotel and a theatre. The end result was the construction of the Hotel Congress and the Rialto Theatre, respectively, in 1919. The Hotel Congress held steady business over the years, but it surged after the events of January 22nd, 1934, when John Dillinger and his gang checked into the hotel to lay low. That same day, however, a fire erupted in the basement of the hotel, which quickly spread through the floors of the hotel. Dillinger and his group escaped the fire, which ended up destroying the third floor which they were staying on, and they were captured soon after.
The fire was mostly contained aside from the destruction of the third floor, and it was quickly put under a restoration effort to restore it to its former glory. The Hotel Congress remained a popular location after that day, cementing its place in history, and it saw numerous improvements over the years, such as the addition of a music venue, Club Congress, in 1985. In addition to holding one of the most renowned bars and music venues in the United States, the Hotel Congress holds yearly events every third weekend in January called Dillinger Days, which celebrate the capture of John Dillinger with reenactments, music, lectures, and more (see link below in "Additional Information").
Maynards Market + Kitchen, sister business to Hotel Congress, is located across the street on Toole Avenue in the historic train depot. Both the kitchen and the market are fueled by a passion for celebrating the best of place, product and service.
Maynards Market boasts locally sourced products, gourmet grab and go, and downtown Tucson’s only wine shop. With a large community table, outdoor seating on the spacious plaza, and free WiFi, Maynards Market is the perfect place to explore or relax with a latte, pastry, and your favorite read.
11. "Dillinger Days event," Hotel Congress website, accessed November 10, 2016.