318 East Congress Street

Rialto Theater (4/29)

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Rialto Theater…318 E. Congress Street

After World War I, Tucson’s economy, based on natural resources and agriculture, began to include the service economy. One of the reasons was the burgeoning tourism industry. The city began to trade on its incomparable climate…and what better time to attract tourists than the “Roaring Twenties”? Like the Hotel Congress, its sister structure, the Rialto was built by the California-based firm, William Curlett and Son. Like all Rialtos (and there are many still in existence worldwide), the name refers to a medieval covered bridge in Venice around which novelty shops were built, creating a de facto “entertainment district”. “Rialtos” were plazas for the common people while “Theatres” and “Operas” were reserved for nobility and the wealthy. It’s worth noting that providing entertainment for everyone has been characteristic of the Tucson Rialto since its construction. The conventional wisdom in 1919 was that these two East Congress Street projects, the Rialto and Hotel Congress, were foolhardy, but the east end of downtown flourished. And continues to flourish with these two vibrant icons drawing crowds of locals and tourists alike year after year.

Continue west, past 5th Ave. and look across Congress Street.