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It’s interesting how the city’s assets are viewed from different perspectives.

Perhaps best known for its beer history, Milwaukee is a city of about 600,000 on the western shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.

Beer helps sustain the city. For example, the Pabst Mansion is listed as a major tourist attraction. There is a Miller Brewing plant and the city’s entry in Major League Baseball is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers play at Miller Park. And so on.

The Harley-Davidson Museum is in Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a purple state. Joe Biden carried the state in 2020 with 49.4 percent of the vote to Donald Trump’s 48.8 percent.

My wife and I recently went there to visit our daughter, Tara, who is a professor at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution that is a strong presence in the city.

The Milwaukee River flows through the heart of the city.

Tara lives with her wife, Laura, on the fourth floor of a relatively new residential building, on the west bank of the river, by the way, not far from Schlitz Park.

Now, as for the different views on the asset, the new publisher of the Connecticut Post came to Bridgeport many years ago. He didn’t think he knew everything, and one day he asked me to show him around. It’s a different area, okay? From the slums of Bridgeport’s East Side and East End to the stables and stables of Southport and Greenfield Hill and pretty much everything in between.

The new publisher was from Pittsburgh, a city that knows something about rivers. We found ourselves in downtown Bridgeport at the cut-off end of Congress Street, its bridge over the Pequenock River long gone. We looked up and down the river. Across the river, on the Knowlton Street side, the hands of the clock on the billboard had frozen years ago, eleven past twenty. Nothing else along the river had changed either.

The rear ends of the old brick buildings sunk into the oil-stained shore. The sluggish water of the river was an insolent, battleship gray. The rotting piles were staked. It was an unsightly repository of a bygone industry. That’s what I saw.

This is what the new publisher saw. Look at this whole beach!

Indeed. A damaged waterfall, and this is what remains of it today. While Rooster’s visions of developing Bridgeport’s forlorn downtown theaters come and go, the desolate waterfront lives on.

The photo here was taken from the road over the river. The view faces north. From their deck, you can see empty lots where old buildings have been torn down and new construction is likely nearby. Vision and development have beautified the Milwaukee River.

The other day I went down to the Pequenock River. I parked at the cut end of the street near the Bridgeport Fire Station. A recently sown plot of land is being transformed into a park with a few benches. Waterfront property still ‘wastin.’

More delightfully, Bernard Crowley, formerly of Bridgeport, now of Newport, RI, has completed and published his masterwork, a labor of love that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years.

In full disclosure, Bernie is my brother-in-law. He was married to my wife’s sister, Maureen. A self-taught historian and writer, he became fascinated with the story of James Henry O’Rourke, a baseball player from Bridgeport who, among other notable feats, is credited with hitting the first base hit in the National League.

Bridgeport’s Newfield Park, on the city’s east end, was sculpted on the O’Rourke farm.

With Bridgeport librarian and author Michael Bielawa and others, Bernie founded an organization called The First Hit Inc. to try to raise money to save O’Rourke’s house, which stood alone near I-95 in what is now Steelpointe. development area. They could not save the house.

His 454-page book is titled The Remarkable Life of James Henry O’Rourke. A Connecticut Farm Boy’s Journey to the Baseball Hall of Fame.” Naturally, the book contains everything you’d want to know about O’Rourke, whose creative speaking engagements earned him the nickname “Speaker Jim.” But it also tells his remarkable story against the backdrop of major events in late 19th and early 20th century America. It is available on Amazon.

Michael Jay Daley is a retired opinion page editor for the Connecticut Post. Email: [email protected]


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