Venue Spotlight: Hotel Congress

James Pack/ October 16, 2018

Photo Credit: Kathleen Drier

Our first venue for the 8th Tucson Fringe Theatre Festival is Hotel Congress. The first time Congress was used as a venue for the Fringe Festival was 2013 and continued to be a venue every year since. This is the sixth year Hotel Congress has joined us in our performing arts adventures and we hope to have them as a venue for many years to come. They are also the closest hotel to many of our venues for anyone traveling from out of town to attend the festival. And now a brief history of Hotel Congress.

The hotel completed construction and opened in 1919 just seven years after Arizona became an official state. On January 22, 1934, there was a fire causing the hotel to renovate and move from 80 rooms to 40 rooms. This same fire began a sequence of events that led to the capture of notorious criminal John Dillinger.

Hotel Congress would have continued its charming existence as just another place of lodging for road weary guests, were it not for the events of January 22, 1934. That fateful day changed forever the building and its unique place in Tucson history. Early in the morning, a fire started in the basement of the hotel and spread up the elevator to the third floor. This fire, and the subsequent chain of events, led to the capture of one of the country’s most notorious criminals – John Dillinger.

After a series of bank robberies, Dillinger and his gang came to Tucson to “lay low”, residing on the third floor under aliases. Using the switchboard, the front desk clerk notified hotel guests of the fire and guests were evacuated using aerial ladders. On the urgent request of the gang, and encouraged by a generous tip, two firemen retrieved the heavy luggage they left behind. It was later discovered that the bags contained a small arsenal and $23,816 in cash.

Later, these astute firemen recognized the gang in True Detective Magazine. A stakeout resulted in the capture of Dillinger at a house on North Second Avenue. In a space of five hours, without firing a single shot, the police of small-town Tucson had done what the combined forces of several states and the FBI had failed to accomplish. When captured, Dillinger simply muttered, “Well, I’ll be damned”.– (“John Dillinger.” Hotel Congress,

In 1985, Club Congress, the venue within Hotel Congress, opened. In 1994, the first Annual Dillinger Days event began and continues every third week of January, the week after the Tucson Fringe Festival.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Drier

With such a long and exciting history, Tucson Fringe is proud to include Hotel Congress as one of our many venues. As the only consistent venue for the last six years, we want to highlight and express our gratitude to the Management and Staff of Hotel Congress, the heart of the Entertainment District and perhaps even the heart of Tucson. So, book a room for a night, see a show at the club, have brunch in the Cup Café, or just enjoy of beer in Tiger’s Tap Room and celebrate the hotel’s Centennial. Hotel Congress has it all and will continue to provide local Tucsonans and out-of-town guests the best in hospitality and entertainment.

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