BRIDGEPORT — After years toiling on the outskirts of the neighborhood hipster scene, Bridgeport has risen to the status of "hipster haven," according to the city's tourism bureau.
Choose Chicago, the city-affiliated tourism group, has unveiled its list of the most hipster-friendly neighborhoods in the city. Included in the list of neighborhoods are classic hipster staples Wicker Park and Logan Square.
Nabbing the third spot was Bridgeport, which, until recently, was an under-the-radar hipster-friendly neighborhood that retains its traditional, family-friendly feel.
"This working-class South Side neighborhood has become a haven for artists and creative types, set in the shadow of Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox baseball team," Choose Chicago's hipster report reads.
Bridgeport has been on the cusp of full-blown hipster status for quite some time.
A 2013 Reader article "The Migration of the Hipster" forecast that Bridgeport, Pilsen and Avondale would be the next frontiers of hipster living. (That was fairly prescient.) In 2014, a Boston Globe reporter tasked with finding the next "hot neighborhood" had Bridgeport on his to-do list, but in a time crunch visited Andersonville instead.
Still, the idea at the time that Bridgeport, home of the Democratic Machine and generations of deeply rooted families, could be a hipster mecca was foreign to some experts.
"The Bridgeport hipster is beyond ironic," Bill Savage said in the Reader article. "It's more unimaginable to me than ... the 'Bridgeport Republican.'"
Mentions of Bridgeport as a hipster destination began around 2009, when WBEZ reported on the changing neighborhood through the lens of a 67-year-old Bridgeport Restaurant server, who had been serving more young creative types at the neighborhood diner. The neighborhood was described then as a "bermuda triangle" of cheap rents, central location and neighborhood charm.
And while things like location and history entice hipsters, Bridgeport's demographic shifts at the time helped allow for the more classic gentrification that usually presages hipster migration.
As WBEZ reports:
"Bridgeport is best known for the White Sox stadium, political clout and a steady Irish population. But in the last five years this working-class community on Chicago's South Side has shifted from majority white to majority minority. It's not just the mix of Hispanic and Asian residents redefining the neighborhood, there's also a budding art scene, funky restaurants and new condos."
Changing demographics made it easier for young people to move into the area, the WBEZ report notes. But young, creative types have lived in the area for quite some time, said Janet Scanlon, a Bridgeport native and co-owner of Hardscabble Gifts, which was mentioned in the Choose Chicago article as a unique neighborhood shop.
The primary change has been in the proliferation of art galleries and other businesses in the area, especially the Bridgeport Arts Center and Lumpen Radio, which help give a face to the creative class that has always existed here, Scanlon said.
"There's more awareness of the talented people living here," Scanlon said. "The South Side just gets much less attention."