A mysterious visit Tuesday by two technicians briefly threatened the historic mahogany phone booths in the lobby of the Hotel Congress.

The men, representing FSH Communications, appeared and mentioned "fixing" the pay phones in the booths to the hotel's clerk, said Todd Hanley, the general manager of the downtown hotel. Before long, one of the phones was removed, and the technicians appeared to be going for the booth housing the phone, too, he said.

"They were going to take the telephone booth, but because it's tiled in, it's too much effort," he said.

Hanley got involved, he said, and the technicians left with one phone in hand.

The technicians said having two phones in the lobby was not cost-effective for the company, Hanley said. Not only do most people use cellphones these days, but the FSH pay phone inside is expensive: Stickers on the phone say one four-minute call costs a dollar.

FSH officials did not return calls or emails sent Friday seeking comment.

As to the booths, they're staying, Hanley said.

"Until it's proven otherwise, our contention is the phone booths are ours," he said.

They date at least to 1934, if not earlier, hotel owner Shana Oseran told the Star last year in a Tucson Oddity feature. Much of the hotel burned in a 1934 fire when John Dillinger's gang was staying there.

Contact reporter Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-8427.