Sunday, January 1, 2023

Hotel Congress and Happy New Year

Corona de Tucson

January 1, 2023

Thrusday (12/29) morning sunrise

New Year's Eve morning,  Joe and I headed  north to Tucson for brunch.  Hotel Congress was, my choice...mainly because we haven't been there.  

The hotel was built in 1919.  There have been lots of renovations and updates, but one thing you will not find are televisions in any of the 40 rooms. Maintaining the original ambiance with iron bed frames, vintage radios, and 1930s style rotary phones that connect to a real switchboard at the front desk are just a few of the reminders of days gone by.  In an effort to modernize, air conditioning, wiring, and plumbing have been upgraded thru the years. Also, the walls in each room have been adorned with one-of-a-kind paintings (mostly from local artists). Unfortunately, you have to be an over night guest to go upstairs.  

Downstairs, the colorful walls and gorgeous terra cotta floor tiles (original tiles...100+ years old) are the backdrop for all the comings and goings.  The Southwestern designs in the Lobby were painted by Larry Boyce.  Boyce arrived in the spring of 1986 offering to decorate the lobby for a place to park his bike.  It is documented that Boyce rode his bike from the Bay-area to Tucson and that he traveled over 250,000 miles on his bike in his lifetime...leaving beautiful murals all along the way.  He completed his work at the hotel in the spring of 1989.   

The lights on the lobby ceiling...I was glad I looked up.

When reading about the hotel, words like vintage, cultural, eclectic, charming, chic, cozy and many others rose to the surface.  It was all of those things and I will add fun !

These days, Cup Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week...even on holidays...with dining inside or on the patio.   The breakfast menu offers a variety of choices from poached eggs in a personal size cast iron skillet with ham, Gruyere cheese, cream and herbs served with hotel potatoes to Trout Benedict with smoked trout, poached eggs, hollandaise and served with  "dressed" mixed greens.  Joe had quiche of the day with "dressed" mixed greens and I had an omelet with hotel potatoes.  Both were yummy...but next time I'm definitely going for the personal size cast iron skillet after seeing one float by our table.  

Week-ends feature a Bloody Mary bar.  I later read that reservations can be made, but we only had a 10 minute or so wait...just enough time to explore and get photos.      

We are not night folks, but if we were, The Tap Room pours up draft beer and cocktails nightly. It's cozy and well decorated with the work of cowboy artist, Pete Martinez who enjoyed drinking at this bar in the 30s and 40s with Lee Marvin.  

The wrought iron saloon doors to enter the Tap Room were closed, but one of his painting at the entrance caught my eye...Dance of Death.  His work was featured in exhibits all over the country.  Eventually he and his wife retired in Tucson and Hotel Congress holds the largest collection of his original work.

This three story landmark designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival was built just south of the train depot and convenient to passengers arriving in Tucson.  A fire in 1934 destroyed the third floor where John Dillinger was hiding and registered under a false name. The fire inadvertently resulted in the capture of John Dillinger and his gang making the hotel "headline news".  Only one room on the third floor survived the fire and today it is still the only room on the third floor.  

In 2003, Hotel Congress was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  The hotel has many stories to tell..some true, some made up and even some that are haunted.    


There is nothing better than a nice walk on a beautiful day after a yummy and filling breakfast.  A couple of blocks down the street from the Hotel is Southern Arizona Transportation Museum.  Actually, the only transportation represented was trains.  There really isn't much to the museum.  Inside, the history and timeline of trains in southern Arizona is explained and artifacts donated to the museum are on display. 

One of the displays was dated nails.  The date was stamped on the nail head.  For example, a nail with "41" would have been from 1941.  They were usually 2 1/2 " long, made of steel and used for railroad ties.  

I would love to have a set of these old dishes from one of the earlier passenger trains.

According to the history, Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in Tucson in March 1880.  And for the first time, this small community of 7,000 people had reliable access to the rest of the country.  Before that, a trip from Yuma to Tucson took 4 days.  

Joe has always had a love for trains.  Maybe it's because his grandfather was an engineer.  On display outside is a Southern Pacific locomotive given to the city in 1955.  Locomotive 1673 was built in 1900 and logged over 1,000,000 miles hauling goods across the country.  Today it sits on a section of track at the Historic Tucson Train Depot.

The docent at the Locomotive retired from the railroad.  He was very knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy sharing with interested visitors.

Tucson Train Depot was built in 1907 and restored to its 1942 appearance in 2004. The Transportation Museum is housed in the records vault room of the old depot.  

Back at the oasis, it was a quiet week.  I read that the days between December 27-30 are often called Twixmas.  It is described as a time when life seems to slow down a little and everyone takes a deep breath...a time to recharge our batteries before we welcome another year.  I guess that really only applies to folks who work. It is nice to spend most days taking deep breaths and moving at a snails pace if that's what we want to do.  In "betwixt" the first of the week and the end of the week,  we had a nice, lazy rainy day doing absolutely nothing.  I do find it hard to get motivated to do anything on dreary days.   About 5:30 pm I looked out the kitchen window...The clouds were thick and dark with just a little glimmer of a sunset.

Same day and time, this is what I saw in the backyard.  The little glimmer of sunset cast a pretty pink color on the clouds and hid the peaks on the Rincon Mts.  

I'm not sure where my burst of energy came from on Thursday, but I actually cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer, cleaned the refrigerator and freezer,  polished all the kitchen appliances and gave myself a pat on the back.  Joe spent time working on a leather belt.  

Speaking of the kitchen, when we were at the 4th Avenue Street Fair, we purchased a nifty little gadget.  

A young man and his daughter were selling these kits. It's a garlic clove peeler and grater.  I am happy to say, it works!  It you put a garlic clove in the blue rubber tube and role it in the palm of your hand, all the skin comes off...tadah!   Rub the garlic clove on the red dish and it minces...tadah!  I have never liked pealing or mincing garlic ...this is much easier.  

The Gold Finches are the first to discover the new tree in the backyard.  It provides a place for them to hide...

    a place to perch. 

I think this little guy was lost...

We have seen lots of Mourning Doves the past few weeks.

And the Cactus Wrens still put a smile on our face...they can run pretty fast. 

The violas have seed pods.  I think that is so cool...the seeds are so tiny.  

The wild Globe Mallow on the other side of the fence is full of color.

And the skies continue to "wow" us.

The Empowered Woman...a gigantic mural painted on the side of One Fifth Avenue Apartments at the corner of Fifth Ave and Congress Street...was completed in 2022 and added to the list of over 100 murals around Tucson.  It is most impressive!   

I like the word "cheers"'s used as a toast to celebrate friendships and a way to express thanks.   So,

to everyone and here's to a great 2023!

Happy New Year !

Until next time, 

Heading home from town...



  1. Great, cheerful blog post! Happy New Year!! I've actually been to the Hotel Congress and I too found it fascinating--will have to take the Cowboy one of these days. You deserve a pat on the back for all that cleaning!

    1. Hi Janna and thank you! We would love to go back to Hotel Congress with you and Michael and I am pretty sure if it’s warm, Emmi can go to if we chose patio dining. Let’s make it happen! Hoping for a meet up real soon. Happy New Year to you three.

  2. The Hotel Congress breakfasts sound yummy, and that Bloody Mary looks huge! Rotary phones?, that will keep the kids from making calls.
    A humming bird sitting on the steps? Maybe he wanted to come in...

    1. Good evening Jeff…we can add Cup Cafe to the growing list of places to eat. It’s a really cool place! The Bloody Mary was huge and I drank every drop…😃! I would love to be guest at the hotel one day just so I could see the rooms upstairs! Happy New Year to you and Fran!

  3. Wonderful pics and narrative on the historic Hotel! Haven't been for a couple decades, it was a favorite of my mother's during her years in Tucson. I must get back and enjoy one of those special offerings. You look quite enamored with that bloody mary :-)) Sometime about a new year inspires me to clean as well. Feels good to "start" fresh. Happy 2023 :-)

    1. Good morning Jodee…and thank you! I would be very curious to hear from you if the Hotel has changed much during the past few decades. We definitely need to go back…I get overloaded much faster these days and it’s hard to take everything in. You are so right about beginning the new year all clean and spiffy. Happy New Year to you three!

  4. What an interesting hotel! I think I could spend the entire day there just looking at the artwork and details. Happy New Year!

    1. Good morning Jim and Barb…I read countless stories about the hotel and also find it very interesting. The current owners who bought the hotel 30 years ago have done a beautiful job keeping it as it was and making it a fun place to visit. The hotel has a stage and live music seven night a week and quite the reputation for being “a happening downtown place to go”…oh to be a few years younger!

  5. Happy New Year. That hotel looks wonderful. And what a history it has. Blessings for 2023.

    1. Good morning Sandie…the hotel was a very nice “surprise”. I didn’t do much research before we went and really only knew the John Dillinger story as it relates to his capture. The history and stories (whether true or not) make for a good read! Happy New Year to you too Sandie!

  6. Thanks for the information on the hotel. Looks so fascinating and that Bloody Mary is spectacular!! Yum. Sounds like a wonderful holiday for you and the clan. Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Pam…you are welcome. The hotel is definitely worth a visit and a meal. There is a parking garage right across the street which is easy to access.

  7. Interesting hotel, thanks for taking us along! NOW i know what that rolled rubber thing in my kitchen junk drawer is!!!! I must have bought it, I must have known what it was used for, but I found myself staring at it wondering what the heck it was....a garlic peeler.!

    1. Good morning Sue…that’s too funny and so, so familiar as I say the exact same thing to myself with some regularity. Maybe we should all post photos of our junk drawers…we might all make discoveries! It really works! Happy New Year to you, Dave and Lewis!