In the 1830s, large numbers of Irish immigrants came to Chicago to work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Because there wasn’t enough money for the project, the State of Illinois issued “land scrip” to the workers in lieu of cash. Many of them used that scrip to purchase land at the northern end of the canal where it meets the south branch of the Chicago River – near a bridge that was too low to allow boats to pass under it, so cargo had to be unloaded there; hence the name, “Bridgeport.”
Although the Irish are Bridgeport’s oldest and most famous ethnic group, Bridgeport has also been home to a large number of other groups, including Italians, Lithuanians and today, large numbers of Mexican and Chinese who are attracted to the area’s affordable housing and proximity to the city. In 2008 the Chicago Sun-Times listed Bridgeport as one of the most ethnically-diverse neighborhoods in the city.
Bridgeport is an older, traditionally working-class and family-oriented community; it is home to the Chicago White Sox, the former Comiskey Park, and some of the most beautiful architecture in Chicago. It is bounded on the west and north by the Chicago River, on the east by Canal Street and on the south by Pershing Road.
The neighborhood has been home to five of Chicago’s mayors: Edward Kelly, Martin Kennelly, Richard J. Daley, Michael Bilandic, and Richard M. Daley.
Public primary schools in the neighborhood include Mark Sheridan Academy, Philip D. Armour School, Robert Healy School, Charles N. Holden School and George B. McClellan School. Parochial elementary schools include Bridgeport Catholic Academy, St. Mary School and St. Barbara School. The local high school is Tilden High School.