Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Weekend Assignment #335: Adopted History

It's time for me to try to remember what my inspiration was for Weekend Assignment #335: History. Ummm....

Weekend Assignment #335: History

We don't all live near the site of a battlefield or other world-famous event, but any place has its own history: political, cultural, even natural history. How aware are you of the past of the town, city or state where you live now? Share with us a story of local history.

Extra Credit: Have you ever participated personally in an historic event? (This doesn't have to be anything earth-shattering.)

The truth is that I'm drawing a blank on my original idea for this entry. Perhaps it was because I stood next to the producer of The Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday, August 10th as he stood next to the bar at the historic Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson. Hotel Congress is historic by virtue of its age (built in 1919 to serve people passing through the adjacent railroad depot) and relative intact-ness, but its main claim to fame in Tucson history is the fact that John Dillinger and associates stayed there shortly before Dillinger's capture in Tucson in 1934.

John Dillinger and associates at the Hotel Congress, January 2008.

On January 22, 1934, a fire started in the hotel basement and spread upward. After John Dillinger and his gang escaped down a ladder, one of them bribed two firemen to retrieve their luggage, which included "a small arsenal and $23,816 in cash," according to the hotel website. One of the firemen later recognized the gang members in True Detective Magazine, which soon led to their capture in a private home nearby. Although Hotel Congress is also known these days for its music venue, Club Congress, for good food and for general coolness, the whole Dillinger thing is kind of a point of pride in Tucson even today, even though the legendary robber later escaped from authorities using a fake gun carved from a piece of wood.

The hotel's portion of the Dillinger story is reenacted every January during John Dillinger Days. I attended one of these events in January 2008. I think that's as close as I've come to witnessing history: fictionally and after the fact. Unless, of course, voting in important national elections and then watching the results on tv counts as being a witness! I rather think not. On the other hand, John and I rode the old pre-Nemo Submarine Voyage ride the very last night of its long run at Disneyland. That counts, sort of.

But let's get back to downtown Tucson and its history. Across the street from the Hotel Congress is the Historic Depot, as it's called. I've written about and photographed the Depot rather extensively. It has its own museum as well as a steam locomotive that actually ran to and from Tucson in the early years of the 20th Century. But the most famous incident at Tucson's train station involved these two guys:

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday at the Historic Depot.

What did these guys do on March 20, 1882? Read it on the sign:

This was just before the infamous Earp Vendetta Ride. You can read more about the Earps, the Depot killing and the timeline of events here.

I'm not from Tucson. I was born in Syracuse, New York, lived in DeWitt NY until I was four years old, and in Manlius NY until my parents divorced in 1976. Now that I think about my old home town, I seem to remember that maybe I intended to tell you something about Manlius history, the fact that Manlius was a major crossroads when Syracuse was a mosquito-infested swamp (at least according to one of my teachers growing up), only to lose its importance with the building of the Erie Canal nearby. But you know, Manlius history doesn't have Earp or Dillinger in it, so the heck with it. Besides, I said "where you live now," and for me that's Tucson.

At various times I've also written about an historic resort in Tucson, now long gone, about Fort Lowell, the ruins of which still stand, an old warm spring spa that used to be a tourist/health destination and other snippets of Tucson history. I may now be from Tucson, but in nearly a quarter century here I've learned quite a bit about it!



barrettmanor said...

You live in a city that has some cool history. Mine? Well....

Stephen Watkins said...

No shortage of outlaw/cowboy history in your neck of the woods, eh? John Dillinger and Wyatt Earp? Crazy nuts.

And yes, I think participating in an historic election counts. Most of us don't get many opportunities to make history, so you takes 'em where you gets 'em, even when you live in a state, like I do, that tries its hardest to invalidate your historic role by voting against you...

Alan said...

I live close to St. Peter’s church, Monkwearmouth, where, despite what people might have read to the contrary, the Venerable Bede lived and worked. A wall still exists from the original monastery, and you can walk through the very doorway that Bede would have used.
It is 1300 years old.