In Part I & Part II, we followed the vintage neon signs through the Miracle Mile Strip (Miracle Mile west to South Oracle, east on Drachman, south on Stone to Downtown.). Click HERE for a Miracle Mile Strip map and some interesting old photos.
Once in Downtown, there are many neon signs, most relatively new; but also many that are old and have been restored.
When it comes to restoring old neon signs from Tucson's past, Jude Cook of Cook & Co. Signmakers is the go-to guy. In recent years, Mr. Cook has restored the neon signs of the Tropicana Motor Hotel, Medina Sporting Goods, Magic Carpet Golf, Canyon State Motor Lodge, Monterey Court and many others.
At the east end of Congress Street sits the historic Hotel Congress. Established in 1919, the same year my father was born in Tucson, this 2-story vintage hotel was originally 3-stories. But the hotel fire of January 1934 destroyed the 3rd floor, and it was never restored.
The fire was also the beginning of the end for the infamous Dillinger Gang of bank robbers and murderers, several of whom were staying in 3rd floor rooms when the fire broke out. Without firing a shot, Tucson policemen did what federal, state, and local law enforcement in the mid-West could not do ... capture John Dillinger, 3 of his gang men, and their molls. For days following the capture, this was front page news in every newspaper in the country. The events are re-enacted each January during Dillinger Days at Hotel Congress.
Unlike the motor courts along Miracle Mile Strip, Hotel Congress was built to serve the passengers of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Tucson's historic train depot is just across the street from the Hotel. Today Hotel Congress has the Cup Cafe and the train depot has Maynards Market & Kitchen; both restaurants are highly recommended.
At the west end of Downtown Tucson's Entertainment District is the historic Fox Theater that opened in 1930. It was the first commercial building in Tucson to have a type of modern air conditioning. For 40 years, the Fox was a very popular movie house, but like the rest of Downtown, it became a derelict.
Finally, a local historical preservation group raised $14 million and over 6 years restored this beautiful old theater. It re-opened in 2006. The Fox still shows movies, but is best known for its wonderful live performances. Ms. Karen & I go often. Highly recommended.
Known as the "Diving Lady", this classic 1950s neon sign advertises a pool for the former Pueblo Hotel. Located at 6th Avenue and 12th Street, the Pueblo started out as The Willard Hotel and was constructed between 1902 – 1904. The name was changed to Pueblo Hotel in 1944 and operated until 1984.
The building underwent a major restoration between 1991 and 1993. The pool was filled in and the building became law offices. They say an occasional tourist comes in looking for a hotel room. Unfortunately for them, it's always NO VACANCY.
About the only difference between the old and new sign is the word “refrigerated” was replaced with "Piccaretta Davis" in an effort to distinguish the office building from its former hotel and apartments. The owners spent about $25,000 to restore the diving lady.
There are other neon signs about town that we may get around to photographing some day. But this ends our three-part series on the Vintage Neon Signs of Tucson.
If you missed Part I of our Neon Signs of Tucson story, check it out here.