House of the Day #33: 3302 S. Normal

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Bridgeport has been known, at least until recently, as the cradle of Chicago mayors. A working-class neighborhood on the South Side, it has a long history of ethnic tensions: the Irish, Lithuanians, Germans, and others all had their own churches. But they could and did unite against African-Americans on numerous occasions, greeting black visitors and prospective residents with violence throughout much of the 20th century. The Dan Ryan Expressway was infamously routed to reinforce the uncomfortably porous border of railroad tracks between Bridgeport and the teeming black Bronzeville area to the east. While Bridgeport is increasingly diverse today, with many Latinos and Chinese spilling in from adjacent neighborhoods, it is still noticeably devoid of African-Americans. As the recent saga of this house at 3302 S. Normal suggests, this fact may not simply be an echo of the past.

3302 S. Normal, built in 2006, is an 8000 square foot McMansion, vastly out of scale from the more modest homes around it. The family that built it listed it for sale in 2008 for approximately .8 million, and black comedian George Willborn put an offer down on it in early 2010. The owners reneged on a verbal commitment to sell, and are alleged to have expressed an aversion to selling it to a black family – possibly because relatives of the owners live next door and in other nearby homes. The Willborns filed a complaint, and the Federal Government eventually sued the owners for housing discrimination. Later in 2010, the house was again listed for sale, and the most recent transaction on file with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds indicates that a foreclosure process has been initiated.

Hopefully this is a relatively isolated and increasingly rare phenomenon. There is much else to like about Bridgeport. Two things I’ll highlight here, just to balance out this sordid tale: the new Palmisano Park, opened in the past year, transforms a former quarry and landfill into a sublime outdoor space with commanding views.

And Maria’s Community Bar, at 31st & Morgan, has put Bridgeport on the map as a destination for good drinks in a hip atmosphere, with the 2nd largest beer selection in Chicago.


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