(CN) — A lit cigarette ignited table cloths in the basement of Tucson’s Hotel Congress on Jan. 22, 1934, causing a fire that eventually engulfed the third floor. Guests ran into the street, many still in their underwear. Two men reportedly bribed firefighters to retrieve their luggage.
Later recognizing the men as members of John Dillinger’s gang, the firefighters tipped off the police — resulting in a stakeout that nabbed the infamous bank robber and his men.
“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,” Source Courthouse News Service July 15, 2016
The Hotel Congress is a historic building located in downtown Tucson, Arizona. It was built in 1918 designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm William and Alexander Curlett as part of an expansion of congress street and in conjunction with the theatrical venue Rialto Theatre, which sits north of Congress street. 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 building also houses a restaurant, bar and music venue.
The Hotel is known for being the site of the capture of bank robber John Dillinger in 1934. After a series of bank robberies, the Dillinger Gang arrived in Tucson to hide out. On January 22, 1934, a fire started in the basement and spread up to the third floor, where the gang resided under aliases. After the desk clerk contacted them through the switchboard the gang escaped by aerial ladders. On the request of the gang, two firemen retrieved their luggage, identifying who they were. After being transferred to a jail in Crown Point, Indiana, Dillinger escaped again and was eventually shot down in Chicago, Illinois. Source Wikipedia.
Footnote: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 5K reward for Dillinger in 1934 would be worth $89,935.55 in 2016; the 10K reward $179,879.10; and the 20K reward $359,758.21.