Tucson, AZ

Tucson History: The Hotel Congress

The Savvy Reeder

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Front doors of the Hotel CongressPhoto by the Hotel Congress

Tucson has a rich, deep history and many great locations throughout the area to visit to take in that history. One such place, nestled in the heart of downtown Tucson, is the Hotel Congress, located on Congress Street. Since moving to the area, I have always heard that Hotel Congress is a historic, interesting place, but I had no idea why. Let's take a look at the history of one of the most unique event venues and hotels in the Tucson area.

Beginnings

Built in 1918, Hotel Congress was named through some of the very first crowd-sourcing. The city held a contest and let the public decide the name. It was one of the few buildings built during the first world war in the area and opened with 100 guest rooms and 75 bathrooms. This was pretty luxurious at the time. A fire nearly destroyed Hotel Congress in 1934.

Due to the destructive fire, the Tucson police discovered the depression-era gangster John Dillinger and his "Dillinger Gang" had been holed up at the hotel. Dillinger had been a notorious bank robber, who also had been known to rob police stations. Upon the capture of the Dillinger Gang, they were extradited back to Indiana for the bank robbery trials. Ultimately, he escaped and went on to more crime.

After the fire, the Hotel Congress was rebuilt, but this time with only 40 rooms. As time went on, the hotel expanded to add Club Congress in 1985. This still continues to be a great venue for live shows, parties, and late-night dancing. The hotel celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018.

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Haunted?

As with any old building, there are bound to be ghost stories floating around. In 2020, Hotel Congress was named one of the Top Five Haunted Destinations in the US. That's quite the claim to fame. Guests have told of experiences with apparitions standing at the foot of their beds, sounds of people walking up and down the hallways when no one is there, and other spooky activities.

Room 242 is a paranormal hot spot, and many paranormal investigators have reported sightings of a woman or a female-shaped cloud that lingers in the room. Legend has it that a female traveler took her life in the room and now appears to guests in the bathroom mirror, whispers in their ears, and leaves icy cold spots around the room.

Modern Hot Spot

These days Hotel Congress is less of an outlaw hideaway, and more of a place to mingle with friends, take in some good music while having a nice drink. The hotel offers two dining options within the property. Head to The Cup for brunch-style dining options until 2 pm, and full lunch and dinner menus the rest of the day. For a nicer dinner option, Maynards is a great spot. It hasn't fully re-opened but when it does check out their delicious menu.

Club Congress is always having great events. You'll find a great line-up of alternative rock bands, country crooners, and features local bands regularly. It's a great spot to find some new favorites or see your classic artists come through town.

Whether you're staying for a few nights, or just popping in for a drink, Hotel Congress is a Tucson gem. Songs have been written about it, stories told about it, and more history is to come from this wonderful spot in downtown Tucson.

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Arizona-based lifestyle writer covering events, destinations, and more for the modern life.

Tucson, AZ
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