The year 1836 saw the ground breaking of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. This man-made endeavor created a connection between the Chicago River and the Illinois River, 96 miles apart. Immigrants flooded the area for construction jobs at the canal site and as a result, Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood was born. Irish, German and Norwegian canal dredgers made their homes along Archer Avenue named for William Beatty Archer, who oversaw the waterway's construction. In 1848 the canal was finished and opened for business. Suddenly Bridgeport was a bustling community of lumber yards, industrial factories and meatpacking plants. Archer Avenue became the main strip, and meatpacking industries became the major employer of the immigrant residents.
Although the population was diverse, each ethnic community built its own enclave. The Irish, German, Poles, Czechs and Lithuanians all constructed their own parishes, which became the moral center of each sub-neighborhood. Around these churches, two-flat houses and quaint brick cottages were built. Such a stable development led to strong businesses and soon enough, saloons, schools, and small retail, grocer, and industrial merchants came onto the scene. In the 1880s streetcars appeared on Halsted Street, boosting it to main drag status over Archer Avenue.
Today industry continues to thrive in Chicago's Bridgeport area. For over 150 years, this neighborhood has given Chicago and the surrounding areas some of its strongest workers. Not to mention some of its most influential. Five Chicago mayors have either come from Bridgeport or made it their main residence over the years.