The Story of Bridgeport
Irish immigrants who came to dig the Illinois and Michigan Canal first established Bridgeport on the site of an earlier frontier settlement called “Hardscrabble,” in 1836. Immigrant workers from other countries moved into the area and worked for the nearby Union Stock Yard and railroads when it opened 30 years later.
Because of its roots as a working-class community, Bridgeport has a history steeped in political organizing and conflict. In July 1877, labor demonstrations turned violent. Railroad workers went on strike in cities across the country. In Chicago, a group of workers marched up Halsted Street. At the Halsted Street Bridge over the South Branch of the Chicago River, the protesters were met with police and the U.S. Army’s Second Regiment. A bloody battle followed, and at least 18 workers were killed, with an uncounted number of injured.
Bridgeport was historically a white immigrant community, which often resulted in tension between Germans and Irish, as well as Polish and Lithuanian groups. Today, the Bridgeport community area has many residents of Latinx and Chinese descent. It also has a growing arts and culture scene, with plenty of dining options, art fairs, and farmers markets. The Bridgeport Arts Center serves as an artistic epicenter in the community. The Red Line runs near Bridgeport through Armour Square, with a stop at Sox-35th. The Halsted stop on the Orange Line also serves Bridgeport.
Neighborhood Spotlight: The Mayors from Bridgeport
Five of Chicago’s mayors hail from Bridgeport: Edward Kelly, Martin Kennelly, Richard J. Daley, Michael Bilandic, and Richard M. Daley. Part of Chicago’s “machine” politics, the leadership of these mayors spanned from 1933 to 2011.
The Daleys, a well-known name in Chicago, are among the most notable residents from Bridgeport. Both Richard J. Daley and his son, Richard M., attended Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church at 37th and South Union in the neighborhood. Richard J. was the son of an Irish sheet-metal worker and went on to get a law degree – an anomaly in working-class Bridgeport. He worked his way up through Chicago politics and became mayor in 1955, dominating the Chicago Democratic Party until his death in 1976. Though credited with many successes, Daley’s tenure was controversial, including fomenting racial tension and upholding racist housing policies. He received national attention for his handling of the 1968 Democratic Convention riots in which he encouraged the police to brutally suppress the protestors. His son became mayor in 1989, serving until 2011.