What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Bridgeport? From its immigrant beginnings producing the nation’s sausages, or its dichotomy of old-school born-here, die-here types rubbing shoulders with the constant tide of artisans and students floating around, it’s the most Chicago neighborhood. Bridgeport has sordid histories; it has promising futures.
71st Street in South Shore (Denise Naim)
Murmurs and greetings circulated through the wood-paneled meeting room of Bryn Mawr Community Church as one hundred South Shore residents settled in for the monthly 5th Ward meeting on May 23.
Jack Chen & Wang Chen Hai, Northern City (Luke Sironski-White)
When Jimmy Li first moved to Bridgeport in 1984, he was one of the few Asian immigrants to live in the neighborhood. Over seventy-six percent of residents at the time were white, twenty percent identified as Hispanic or Latino, and less than one percent were African-American. The Asian population was all but unaccounted for by authorities until the 1990 census, which reported that they constituted 16 percent of the population.
Photos Courtesy of Benton House Office
A cold wind blew down South Gratten Street on a chilly November afternoon while Bridgeport residents outside stood in line for Benton House’s food pantry, donning jackets, scarves, gloves, and all. Seniors sat on plastic lawn chairs on the sidewalk with personal shopping carts in tow. Inside, toddlers bounced around the stairs while their mothers monitored them with hawk-like vision.
On the first floor of the Lacuna Artists Lofts, near the abstract floating reclaimed wood sculpture, past the neon Converse All-Stars wall hanging, around the eleven-foot-tall vintage cowhide couch-swing with USB port armrests, you enter a narrow room.
They, like the Club itself, exist to protect the children.
A stone’s throw away from Chicago’s downtown area, one might find oneself in this nondescript, inconspicuous neighborhood called Bridgeport. With its post-industrial sheen, one would never guess the historic significance it holds: thousands and thousands of immigrants started up their American dream right here. It was a start-up for throngs arriving from throughout Europe. Word spread that boundless opportunities and streets paved with gold would welcome you. Bridgeport was booted up to the thriving union stockyards and the central manufacturing district. Abundant back-breaking work was available for everyone hardy or foolish enough to partake in this new American way of life. Saloons on every corner took the edge off the drudgery. Newly built churches and schools catered to your ethnic origin, gave you community.
Please donate whatever you can into the alien pumpkin head on your left,” said the voice actor as he threw candy at the audience. “And remember, diabetes is the real killer!” Continue reading
Bridgeport on a Sunday morning: a seating queue winds snugly around the corner of the organic eatery Nana, its outdoor café space buzzing both with young brunchers and the bees that dive-bomb them from the planters. There’s a sidewalk sale assembled on the stoops of Jackalope Coffee and Tea House, attracting a crush of folks who are perhaps too cool for you. Continue reading