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News & Politics

Curious City

WBEZ Chicago

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.
Chicago’s Tornado-Proof Delusion

13:29 | May 5th

Yes, tornadoes can hit Chicago. Why do so many people think otherwise?
Rats! The Science And Stories Behind Chicago’s Most Unwanted Pests

08:54 | Aug 18th

To explore the mysteries of Chicago’s rodents, Curious City took a rat safari, interviewed experts and turned your stories into a zine.
Nicky’s And The Big Baby Mystery Part II: We Found Nicky V.!

08:46 | Aug 4th

Our recent search for the origins of a famous South burger hit a dead end — until the elusive Nicky Vagenas finally came forward.
“We’re Not Just A Relic:” Chicago’s Oldest Black Church Is Adapting To A Changing City

0:00 | Jul 28th

From attracting new members to re-thinking its social justice mission, Quinn Chapel is working to maintain its legacy in a new era.
Chicago’s Race Riots Of 1919 Contributed To The Segregation We See Today

12:44 | Jul 28th

Choices made in the wake of the violence set a foundation for the racial inequality the city continues to grapple with.
Why Chicago Had Race Riots During The ‘Red Summer’ Of 1919

12:37 | Jul 21st

Long-brewing racial tensions came to a head one hot summer day, when a black boy was drowned near a whites-only beach.
The Heart Of The City: Finding Chicago’s Geographic Center

08:23 | Jul 14th

It smells like garbage and gym shoes, but, surprisingly, the city’s geographic center says a lot about Chicago’s soul.
Did A WWII Nuclear Experiment Make The U Of C Radioactive?

08:53 | Jul 6th

We used a Geiger counter to see if we could detect any radiation footprint from the site of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction.
The Scoop On Poop At Chicago’s Beaches

09:32 | Jun 30th

Use our handy guide to determine which Chicago beaches are safe for swimming, and when to proceed with caution.
Nicky’s And The Big Baby: A South Side Burger Mystery

10:35 | Jun 23rd

Dozens of unconnected fast food joints serve up the same popular Chicago cheeseburger under the same name. Where did it all begin?
Did City Officials Know About The Manhattan Project’s Work In Chicago?

08:13 | Jun 16th

A key experiment in the development of the atom bomb was hidden in plain sight on University of Chicago’s campus. Who was in on the secret?
Here's Harold! (The Robot Edition)

09:06 | Jun 9th

The DuSable Museum says — creepy or not — its Harold Washington robot will teach you a thing or two about the city’s first African-American mayor.
How Is Chicago Doing On Its Ambitious 2020 Climate Goals?

12:18 | Jun 2nd

Back in 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to make Chicago “the greenest city in America” by 2020 made national news. How’s that going?
From Vienna Beef To PBR: Five Food And Drink Legacies Of The 1893 World's Fair

08:23 | May 19th

Lots of items in your local grocery aisle claim to have been at the 1893 World's Fair. We piece together these savory origin stories.
How Chicago Women Created The World’s First Juvenile Justice System

12:12 | May 12th

The U.S. legal system treated children the same as adults until the late 19th century, when a group of Chicago women demanded change.
How My Grandparents Helped Shape Chicago’s Blues Industry

09:32 | Apr 28th

Like millions of black Southerners during the Great Migration, they sought greater freedom and opportunity. They found it in the blues.
Chicago To Replace, Remediate Or Remove Park Fountains With Lead Pipes

0:00 | Apr 24th

Chicago Park District officials say they have a five-year plan to remove or replace plumbing in hundreds of outdoor drinking fountains.
Caps On Or Off? Pizza Boxes OK? Answers To 10 Common Chicago Recycling Questions

0:00 | Apr 22nd

Think you know all the recycling rules? Think again. Check out this quick guide to some common dos and don’ts of Chicago recycling.
Five Tips To Avoid Common Recycling Mistakes

0:00 | Apr 22nd

One Chicagoan is worried her neighbors are putting the wrong things in their shared recycling bin. We share five do’s and don’ts.
It’s Complicated: The University Of Chicago’s Relationship With Its Neighbors

13:21 | Apr 21st

Community activists and a university representative reflect on why the relationship has been difficult in the past and where it stands now.
Stories Behind CTA ‘L’ Lines’ Strange Curves, Dips and Twists

08:30 | Apr 14th

Here’s who and what to blame if you spill your coffee on your commute.
A Tavern On (Almost) Every Corner: Why Did So Many Chicago Bars Disappear?

08:07 | Apr 7th

Demographic shifts, changes in attitudes towards public drinking and the politics of the Daley family led to the shuttering of many Chicago bars.
BAM! A Pothole Damaged Your Car! Now What?

04:53 | Mar 31st

It takes a lot of information and a lot of patience, but here’s what you need to know to get reimbursed from the city.
These Four Design Ideas Turned ‘The Hancock Center’ Into An Iconic Skyscraper

13:55 | Mar 24th

Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan changed the way architects and engineers thought about the structure of the modern skyscraper.
Your Guide To Chicago Music History’s Greatest Hits: Part II

13:10 | Mar 17th

Part I of our CliffsNotes guide to Chicago music history included jazz, folk, Latin, and gospel. Here, we present four more genres.
Your Guide To Chicago Music History’s Greatest Hits

13:23 | Mar 10th

A former CPS student wishes kids learned more about Chicago’s rich music history. So here’s a CliffsNotes music guide. Happy listening!
Chicago Has 100,000 New LED Streetlights, But Activists Still Want Them Dimmer

0:00 | Mar 6th

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the city has now installed more than 100,000 new LED streetlights across all 50 wards.The $160 million dollar program to swap energy efficient LED lights for the city’s orange-hued lights is projected to save ...Show More
How Do You Find Out If Your Neighborhood Is Contaminated With Lead Pollution?

12:08 | Mar 3rd

Northwest Indiana resident Beth Braun wants to know whether lead emissions from the nearby steel mill are landing in her backyard.
What Are Chicago’s Oldest Laws?

09:07 | Feb 24th

Did you know you can’t perform in a window or dye a baby chick? We feature nine of Chicago’s most obscure laws.
From Mickey Mouse To Oprah: What Chicagoans Write In On Election Day

05:47 | Feb 17th

Election judges don’t usually count votes for cartoon mice or celebrities, but there was one exception. We took a peek.
To Chicago, With Love: What Do Transplants Love About The City?

10:13 | Feb 10th

One Chicagoan wants to know what people who moved to Chicago love about the city. From fireflies to marathons, here’s what they have to say.
Chicago’s Dill Pickle Club: Where Anarchists Mixed With Doctors And Poets

09:35 | Feb 3rd

The Dill Pickle wasn’t just any old 1920s nightclub. It opened its doors to queer Chicagoans and other marginalized groups.
Chicago Winter Warmth Tips: From Extra Gloves To Hot Potatoes

0:00 | Jan 29th

From mail carriers to photographers, we asked people who spend a lot of time in the cold how they stay warm.
The Gold Star Sardine Bar: The Rise And Fall Of A Chicago Jazz Club

14:41 | Jan 27th

The story of one Chicago grocery store tycoon’s dream for jazz music, movie stars, and bygone glamour.
Buying Black Then And Now: What’s The History Of Black-Owned Business Signs In Chicago?

09:31 | Jan 20th

From boycotts to hashtags, Curious City traces the history of a 150-year-old message urging the black community to support black businesses.
What Was It Like To Dance At The Warehouse Club In Chicago?

09:03 | Jan 13th

Curious City spends a night at The Warehouse club through the memories of teens who danced there in the 1980s.
Unlocking The Closet: Coming Out Later In Life

43:05 | Jan 6th

WBEZ’s Tony Sarabia talks with people who came out later in life about how that affected their closest relationships.
VPR’s ‘But Why’: Why Do We Poop And Fart?

25:42 | Dec 30th, 2018

A recent episode from VPR’s podcast for curious kids features reporting from Curious City about what happens after you flush the toilet.
Tips For Hunting Chicago’s Long-lost Recipes

08:55 | Dec 23rd, 2018

The city's top recipe sleuths share their secrets as we recreate a divine, but elusive, fried chicken dish.
A Butcher, A Developer And His Wife: Where Six Chicago Streets Got Their Names (And Pronunciations!)

05:53 | Dec 16th, 2018

Hint: If you want a Chicago street named after you, it helps to know a real estate developer — or be married to one!  
Chicago Candidates Need Loads of Petition Signatures To Land On The Ballot, But Is That Fair?

09:08 | Dec 9th, 2018

Candidates need to gather and then defend stacks of petition signatures. We break down who this helps and hurts.
Pregnancy Tests? Pigeon Poo? What Chicago Aldermen Really Do

09:53 | Dec 2nd, 2018

Sure, they pass laws and vote on city budgets. But there’s so much more. Think: Pregnancy tests and pigeon poo.
DEH-vin Or Deh-VOHN? Why The CTA Pronounces Chicago Street Names A Certain Way

06:35 | Nov 25th, 2018

The CTA consults lots of sources to decide how to pronounce street names. Take our quiz to find out how your pronunciations match up.
Displaced: When The Eisenhower Expressway Moved In, Who Was Forced Out?

13:10 | Nov 18th, 2018

The Ike was the city’s first superhighway. In this special presentation, people affected open up about how it scattered ethnic neighborhoods and changed many lives forever.
Steak And Lemonade: What Are The Origins Of This Chicago Food Combo?

08:57 | Nov 11th, 2018

The beef sandwich and slushy drink are sold together all across the South and West sides. We track down the guy who put the two together.
Did All Chicagoans Support The Civil War?

13:24 | Nov 4th, 2018

The story of Irish-American draft resisters, African-Americans who defied the odds in order to fight, and women who found alternate ways to support the war.
From Stockyards To Speakeasies: A Chicago Historian Tackles 5 Questions About The City’s History

13:13 | Oct 28th, 2018

Dominic Pacyga shares his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago history and answers questions about everything from “gin joints” to stockyards.
How Vacant Chicago Storefronts Rise From The Dead As Halloween Costume Stores

04:43 | Oct 21st, 2018

We unearth the business model behind these seasonal shops, and get the scoop on what costumes will be most popular this season.
Why Doesn’t Chicago Have More Co-Op Grocery Stores?

09:01 | Oct 14th, 2018

We learn that, despite the current paucity of food co-ops, the city actually has a strong food co-op history — and there may be more on the horizon.
Gone Fishin’: What Happened To Chicago’s Booming Commercial Fishing Industry?

09:43 | Oct 7th, 2018

Chicago once had a booming commercial fishing industry. Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp is one of the last vestiges of that industry.
Who Is Billy Sunday In The Popular Sinatra Song, ‘Chicago?’

09:03 | Sep 30th, 2018

Billy Sunday was an influential preacher within the American evangelical movement. How'd he end up in a song sung by Sinatra?
How Political Clout And Union Power Created Chicago’s Lead Water Problem

08:39 | Sep 16th, 2018

Chicago continued to use lead pipes long after many cities banned them. We look at the politics and personalities behind it.
Daley vs. Little Italy: Did The Mayor Drop UIC On The Neighborhood Out Of Spite?

11:29 | Sep 9th, 2018

Why did Richard J. Daley push for the UIC campus to rise from the heart of a long-standing ethnic neighborhood? In this special Curious City presentation, reporter Monica Eng examines the pervasive suspicion that the mayor’s choice rose from a politi...Show More
Hidden in Plain Sight: Inside Downtown Chicago's Windowless, Doorless Buildings

13:32 | Sep 2nd, 2018

Here’s a peek at what goes on inside some of these “mystery buildings” and how their architectural disguises have evolved over the decades.
This Synagogue’s Story Mirrors The History Of Jewish Migration Across Chicago

13:44 | Aug 26th, 2018

We trace one synagogue’s migration, from the Maxwell Street neighborhood to North Lawndale to West Rogers Park.
What Happened To The East Chicago Residents Forced Out By Pollution?

12:26 | Aug 19th, 2018

More than 1,100 people had to move due to pollution. We follow two of them as they fight to find housing.
What Are The Costs Of Chicago’s Air And Water Show?

04:51 | Aug 12th, 2018

The city says the show generates millions of dollars in business. But some listeners wonder whether it’s worth the environmental costs.
Skyscraper Central: Why Are So Many of Chicago's Tallest Buildings Located Downtown?

10:03 | Aug 5th, 2018

We find out why downtown became the go-to destination for Chicago’s tallest buildings, and whether that might change in the future.
An Extended Interview With Actor And Improviser T.J. Jagodowski

18:02 | Jul 29th, 2018

Lots of famous comedians got their start in Chicago. Actor and improviser T.J. Jagodowski talks with Jimmy Carrane about why that’s the case.
What Officials Are(n't) Doing About Chicago’s Lead Pipes

13:29 | Jul 22nd, 2018

Chicago has the nation's most extensive network of lead service lines, but city officials say drinking water is safe.
How The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Played Into Chicago’s Rivalry With New York

13:41 | Jul 15th, 2018

In this live podcast episode, two actors playing New York and Chicago duke it out over who will host the coveted 1893 World’s Fair.
Why Do Chicago Beaches Ban Flotation Devices?

05:57 | Jul 8th, 2018

One Chicagoan wonders why Chicago beaches ban things like rafts and boogie boards. But experts say there's good reason to leave them at home.
How Does Chicago Track Its Coyotes?

14:29 | Jul 1st, 2018

Chicago is home to an estimated 2,000 coyotes. To learn how they survive, Curious City joined researchers as they tracked down pups.
Doors Closing! Life As A CTA Rail Operator

13:07 | Jun 24th, 2018

Long hours, fatigue, and boredom can be hazards of the job. But former rail operators say there’s a lot to love about driving an 'L' train.
How Pollution Seeped Into The Lives Of East Chicago Residents

14:16 | Jun 17th, 2018

When pollution invaded Ezell Foster’s East Chicago neighborhood, he found himself stuck between industry and a bureaucracy.
WPLN’s 'The Promise': A Beautiful Day In The Projects

27:35 | Jun 10th, 2018

We curate an episode from WPLN’s podcast, ‘The Promise,’ a series about life in the James Cayce Homes, a public housing complex in Nashville.
Nerdette: Comedian John Hodgman Really Loves Malört

30:50 | Jun 3rd, 2018

We curate an episode of the WBEZ podcast, Nerdette, featuring an interview with comedian John Hodgman and the very Chicago story of Malört.
Special Training For School Police: How Do Young People Feel About It?

12:55 | May 27th, 2018

As lawmakers move to require additional training for police in Illinois schools, five young people weigh in on whether it will make a difference.
Seeing Blue: Will Chicago's New LED Streetlights Do More Harm Than Good?

12:17 | May 20th, 2018

Do LED lights cause cancer? Can they really reduce crime? One kid is so concerned about LED streetlights that he called Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Sweet Success: How Chicago's Mexican Bakeries Stay Competitive

08:57 | May 13th, 2018

Lots of Mexican bakeries can be found near one another in neighborhoods like Pilsen. So how do they stay in business?
What A Murder In My Family Reveals About Chicago’s Chinese Gangs

10:07 | May 6th, 2018

On a warm September night, a gunman walked into a West Side restaurant, greeted the manager, and shot him three times. Hours after the murder, Chicago cops were still trying to figure out if the shooting was gang-related, the Chicago Tribune reported...Show More
What Are Chicago’s Oldest Laws?

08:52 | Apr 28th, 2018

Looking around Chicago today, you won’t find many stink balls or cannons—but did you know the city has ordinances regulating both? When these laws were first passed more than a century ago, aldermen may have believed they posed a real threat. But tod...Show More
Which Historical Monuments Have Sparked Controversy In Chicago?

08:39 | Apr 22nd, 2018

From a statue honoring police to a tribute to Confederate prisoners, these monuments have raised debate over how history is represented.
Map Quest: Searching for Chicago’s ‘Lizard Mound’

14:02 | Apr 15th, 2018

A Curious City fan asked us about an odd detail on an old Chicago map. Was it really a Native American burial mound?
Mold-A-Rama-Rama! The Secrets Behind Chicago's Plastic Souvenir Empire

08:42 | Apr 8th, 2018

How a Chicago-area family turned cheap plastic souvenirs into a nostalgia empire.
Seeing Red: What’s Up With That Stoplight On North Lake Shore Drive?

05:35 | Apr 1st, 2018

The light near Chicago Avenue causes mile-long backups. City officials are proposing a solution, but you might be in traffic for a while.
Picture This: Did The Art Institute of Chicago Ever Rent Out Paintings?

08:05 | Mar 25th, 2018

Robert K. Elder would love to decorate the walls in his living room with original paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. So he was floored when a friend told him that her mom rented two pieces of artwork back in the day. This was hard for Rober...Show More
From Blizzards To Heat Waves: Is It Actually Harder To Predict Weather In Chicago?

10:13 | Mar 18th, 2018

Beach weather one day and freezing rain the next: Chicago weather can be unpredictable, but how do we compare to other cities?
What Historical Treasures Are Housed In Chicago Public Libraries?

0:00 | Mar 11th, 2018

These seven "treasures" bear witness to Chicago history, from the Civil War to the election of the first African-American mayor of Chicago.
Get A Piece Of This: 9 Chicago Pizza Mysteries Solved

14:02 | Mar 8th, 2018

You asked about square slices, where the pepperoni goes, and the origins of the pizza puff. We dish it deep on nine questions you kneaded to know.
Bed Rest And Sputum Tests: Inside Chicago's Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium

12:45 | Mar 1st, 2018

Former patients recall the tests, treatments, and trauma nearly 250,000 Chicagoans experienced over the sanitarium's near 60-year-long existence.
How 1920s Chicago Public School Design Reflects Changes In Education

08:27 | Feb 22nd, 2018

More public elementary schools were built in the 1920s than in any other era. Their design reflected new ideas about child development and health.
Not In Your Front Yard: Why ‘For Sale’ Signs Are Banned In Oak Park

08:23 | Feb 18th, 2018

The village insists a decades-old rule to fight blockbusting continues to protect a precious suburban commodity: diversity.
How Often Do People Defend Themselves With A Gun?

12:47 | Feb 11th, 2018

For more than 20 years, researchers have tracked how often Americans defend themselves with a gun. So why can’t they agree on an answer?
What's It Like To Live In Chicago's Loop?

12:26 | Feb 4th, 2018

A family, a dog owner and tenants of a men's hotel explain why the Loop offers a sense of community amid the hustle and bustle.
What Makes Chicago A Destination For Improv?

12:45 | Jan 28th, 2018

Eight improvisers who got their start in Chicago explain what draws so many aspiring funny people to the city’s improv scene.
What Happens To The Lincoln Park Zoo Animals In The Winter?

04:32 | Jan 21st, 2018

Do the animals go somewhere warm, like Florida? Does the zoo give them coats? We took a behind-the-scene tour of the zoo to find out.
6 Curious City Stories To Read For Museum Week

0:00 | Jan 16th, 2018

Illinois residents can get discounted tickets to some of Chicago’s big museums this week. From the Art Institute of Chicago to the Adler Planetarium, various cultural institutions are offering 25 percent off admissions for Museum Week, which runs Jan...Show More
Why Aren't There More Statues Of Women In Chicago?

08:34 | Jan 14th, 2018

Statues of historic men can be found throughout Chicago’s parks and plazas. But one Curious Citizen wonders, "Where are all the women?"
What’s With That Demolition Dust? The Rules And Risks Of Residential Teardowns In Chicago

12:30 | Jan 5th, 2018

Tearing down an old home can release dust containing asbestos or lead. Curious City found that Chicago rarely enforces laws meant to minimize contaminant exposure.
15 Things You Can Actually Rent From The Field Museum

0:00 | Jan 4th, 2018

From a life-sized replica of a T. rex skull to fake bear feces, here are some notable items you can rent from the Field Museum.
Curious City: The Mystery Collection

52:23 | Dec 31st, 2017

Answers to listeners' questions about the mysterious side of Chicago that lies beyond the soaring skyscrapers and the sheen of the Bean.
Blacksmiths: The 'Plastic Surgeons' On Chicago's Payroll

08:15 | Dec 24th, 2017

The City of Chicago employs 20 full-time blacksmiths. But what do they do? And what's with the ancient job title?
Are Taxpayers Footing The Bill For Patriotic Tributes At College Games?

08:07 | Dec 17th, 2017

A 2015 Senate investigation found that the DOD did in fact pay college sports teams to stage patriotic tributes at games. Curious City finds out whether they still do.
What Would You Do With A Million Dollars? Whether Participatory Budgeting Is Worth The Effort

12:50 | Dec 10th, 2017

Some wards vote on how to spend some taxpayer money. Does it help spread the wealth or is it just a feel-good exercise?
So, Why Did It Take So Long For It To Be Mayor Jane Byrne's Turn?

13:23 | Dec 3rd, 2017

It took decades for Chicago's first and only female mayor to land an official honor from City Council. Is there a reason it took so long?
Curious City Podcast Listening Survey

0:00 | Dec 1st, 2017

Our podcast has been around for more than three years — now we want your feedback on how we're doing.
Where Does Your Poop Go?

08:15 | Nov 26th, 2017

Curious City finds out where your poop goes by taking a journey through the Chicago-area sewer system.
Little Fingers And Screechy Sounds: Why Do So Many Kids Learn To Play The Recorder?

07:42 | Nov 19th, 2017

The recorder often inflicts squeaky torture on parents. Music teacher Valerie DePriest explains why it became a staple in music education.
Without Native Americans, Would We Have Chicago As We Know It?

12:45 | Nov 12th, 2017

Names like Marquette and Joliet are cited in history books. But it was Native Americans who first set Chicago on a path to develop into a major metropolis.
Don't Believe The Height! Why Chicago Suburb Names Flat Out Lie About Their Elevation

11:43 | Nov 5th, 2017

From Chicago Heights to Mount Prospect, here's why Chicago suburb names flat out lie about their elevation.
Why Chicago's Chinatown Is Practically Invisible On Apartment Rental Sites

07:58 | Oct 29th, 2017

The listings are there — just in Chinese. Is this a form of discrimination, or a way to preserve a neighborhood's character?
Cycling In Cemeteries? Why Some Chicago Graveyards Are Changing Their Rules About Bicycles

09:13 | Oct 22nd, 2017

The answer has to do with shifting ideas about bikes and the proper way to mourn the dead.
Which Natural Disasters Are Most Likely To Hit Chicago?

12:40 | Oct 15th, 2017

The good news is Chicago probably won’t be hit by hurricanes and earthquakes. But the area is becoming more vulnerable to other disasters.
Chicagoans Are Calling For More Yard Waste Pickups, So Why's The City Picking Up Less?

0:00 | Oct 15th, 2017

More residents are calling for leaf and yard waste pickup, but collection numbers have dropped. What gives?
Do Chicago’s Arab And African-American Muslims Share Mosques? If Not, Why Not?

17:55 | Oct 8th, 2017

Chicago area Muslim leaders weigh in, and they open up about what divides and unites the community.
Forest Foresight: Who Created The Cook County Forest Preserves?

08:25 | Oct 1st, 2017

Architect Dwight Perkins' ambitious plan to save Chicago's natural landscapes raised a question: Which kinds of nature deserve to be preserved?
Who Came Up With The Iconic Chicago White Sox Look?

08:50 | Sep 24th, 2017

The brainchild of a 22-year-old executive, the White Sox look hit a home run with fans and, half a century later, rappers.
The Cha-Cha Slide And More: Which Dances Were Invented In Chicago?

12:19 | Sep 17th, 2017

Don your dancing shoes as we track down the Chicago band members, musicians, and dancers who helped create five iconic moves.
Baring It All: Why Boys Swam Naked In Chicago High Schools

12:29 | Sep 10th, 2017

John Connors says swimming naked in high school gym class was “torture.” Curious City looks at why schools enforced the policy for decades.
Chicago's Forgotten Civil War Prison Camp

13:25 | Sep 3rd, 2017

Camp Douglas’ deadly reputation was kept in shadows but now there’s a surprising movement to bring it to light.
Push Carts, Popsicles, And Patience: How To Be A Paletero In Chicago

08:33 | Aug 27th, 2017

Being a paleta vendor may seem like a sweet life, but we learned that selling Mexican popsicles is anything but a walk on the beach.
City Of Big Agriculture: Here Are The Crops Chicago Was Once Famous For

08:41 | Aug 20th, 2017

The city deserves cred as an industrial giant, but it was also the first city of flowers, a pickle powerhouse and the heart of American celery.
What Happened To Chicago’s Japanese Neighborhood?

12:46 | Aug 13th, 2017

Lake View once had a thriving Japanese community, but it fell victim to a push for assimilation. As one Japanese-American puts it: “You had to basically be unseen.”
Chicago Bathhouses: More Than A Century Of Sanitation, Sex and Sweat

12:36 | Aug 6th, 2017

A quick tour of places where residents would chill, get clean and — sometimes — get down.
Is Notoriously Segregated Chicago Becoming More Integrated?

12:45 | Jul 30th, 2017

On paper, Chicago is more integrated than it was a few decades ago. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Carl Sandburg's Chicago: The Places, People, And Events That Shaped His Writing

13:39 | Jul 23rd, 2017

From 1912 to 1930, the famous poet and writer lived and worked in the Chicago area. Step back in time to experience Sandburg's Chicago.
Why Chicago Lightning Bugs Light Up One Neighborhood But Not the Next

04:35 | Jul 16th, 2017

A listener’s nostalgia for catching lightning bugs as a kid lead her to wonder: Are there any left these days? Our experts say they’re around, just really, really fickle.
A Sign From The Past: What Happened To Chicago's Koreatown?

0:00 | Jul 12th, 2017

Albany Park used to be home to Chicago's Korean community. But while some ethnic enclaves have grown, Koreatown has slowly disappeared.
Rules Of The Road: Do They Apply To Chicago Cops?

0:00 | Jul 9th, 2017

Chicago drivers are required to obey traffic laws when they’re out on the road. But what about the police?
How Chicago Beaches Get and Keep That Nice Fine Sand

08:30 | Jul 9th, 2017

Here’s why you shouldn’t take that "sand between your toes" experience for granted!
Chicago's Best Stargazing Spots

09:05 | Jul 2nd, 2017

Chicago's notorious light pollution hides the stars, but here's where you have a fighting chance to peek at the heavens.
Welcome Back, Otters: Could The River Otter Call Chicago's Loop Home?

08:17 | Jun 25th, 2017

Forty years ago, it would have been nearly impossible to find an otter in Illinois, never mind Chicago. Today, could they be here to stay?
The Meaning Of Boystown: A Conversation About Chicago's LGBTQ Neighborhood

18:54 | Jun 18th, 2017

A multi-generational panel talks about what the neighborhood means to them and where they see its future.
What's With That Odd Closet? What Chicago's Architectural Clues Reveal About How We Live

13:07 | Jun 11th, 2017

We look at eight building features and what each reveals about how society and urban life has changed over the years.
Building Skyscrapers on Chicago's Swampy Soil

08:42 | May 28th, 2017

Engineers once compared Chicago’s soggy soil to jelly cake. How did they build a forest of skyscrapers on it?
City Of Big Potholes: Is Asphalt The Best Choice For Chicago's Streets?

08:16 | May 14th, 2017

In the past decade the city paid out nearly $3 million drivers whose cars were damaged by poor road conditions. Is asphalt to blame?
Boystown: How Chicago Got Its Gay Neighborhood

12:37 | May 7th, 2017

Political activism and businesses helped shape the city's gay neighborhood, but there's a debate about its future.
The Nazis' Neighborhood

22:07 | Apr 23rd, 2017

Was there ever a Nazi neighborhood in Chicago? In this special Curious City mini-documentary and online presentation (complete with archival photos and video), we tell the story of how an infamous neo-Nazi group settled in the Marquette Park neighbor...Show More
How A Rat Balloon From Suburban Chicago Became A Union Mascot

08:34 | Apr 19th, 2017

Scabby the Rat is now common on picket lines around the world, but the balloon started in Chicago’s historically blue-collar suburbs.
Safer, Faster, Smarter? The Road Ahead For Illinois' High-Tech Highway

08:52 | Apr 9th, 2017

Officials say the Jane Addams Tollway will soon be faster, safer and smarter. But will it deliver?
First Responder: Why Do Fire Trucks Often Arrive Before Ambulances For Medical Emergencies?

12:31 | Apr 2nd, 2017

Medical calls outnumber fire calls 20 to one in Chicago. So why does the city own so many more fire trucks than ambulances?
The TV Meteorologist’s Dilemma: When To Talk About Climate Change?

13:00 | Mar 26th, 2017

Tom Skilling explains why most TV meteorologists don't talk about climate change, but should.
What The 'L' Happened To CTA Tokens?

0:00 | Mar 19th, 2017

The rise, fall and enduring charm of the long-gone way to pay for your ride.
Are there fallout shelters left in Chicago?

11:36 | Mar 19th, 2017

There are plenty, but let's just say they're not ready for a nuclear apocalypse.
Most Kids On the Block: Searching for Chicago’s Family-Packed Neighborhoods

08:35 | Mar 12th, 2017

A prospective Chicago parent wants to know where he could be within door-knocking distance of other families with kids. So we mapped them.
Deconstructing The Chicago-Style Hot Dog

08:23 | Mar 5th, 2017

Chicago-style hot dogs are a beloved culinary masterpiece: A snappy all-beef wiener, steamed poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, chopped onions, neon-green relish, two slices of tomato, a dill pickle spear, two sport peppers and a final whoosh of celery ...Show More
Out In The Cold: Where Do Chicago’s Homeless Go In The Winter?

07:29 | Feb 26th, 2017

Coffee shops, hospital waiting rooms and train cars are a few of the places Chicago’s homeless go to escape the cold.
Chickens and Goats and Pigs, Oh My! Chicago’s Backyard Livestock Laws

08:02 | Feb 19th, 2017

After her neighbor adopted five goats, Jeanne Cuff wondered about Chicago's livestock laws.
Red Line To Your Heart: What Makes Chicago's Dating Scene Distinct?

08:20 | Feb 12th, 2017

We explore a phenomenon called “cuffing” and the (short) lengths Chicagoans will go for love.
Come Hell Or High Water: Can Great Lakes Shipping Make A Resurgence?

0:00 | Feb 8th, 2017

Shipping on Lake Michigan helped the U.S. become an industrial behemoth. After hitting choppy waters, is the industry poised for a comeback?
'Gratest' Fear: The Psychology Behind Chicago’s Sidewalk Grates

04:35 | Feb 5th, 2017

Sidewalk grates make people feel uneasy. An anxiety expert said this uneasiness is rooted in something much deeper.
Korean Chicken Wings: Spicy, Crispy, Saucy And Totally Chicago

04:31 | Jan 29th, 2017

Two Albany Park chefs fused Chinese and Korean flavors, giving birth to the chicken lollipop.
Signs Of The Times: How Chicago Bars Got So Many Old Style Signs

09:10 | Jan 22nd, 2017

We uncover the history and bask in the glow of a ubiquitous Chicago bar sign.
“Who’s Your Chinaman?”: The Origins Of An Offensive Piece Of Chicago Political Slang

12:27 | Jan 15th, 2017

Complete with video and archival images, we track down the offensive phrase’s roots and consider whether it’s time to retire it.
Curious City Live: This Show Was A Disaster!

53:54 | Jan 2nd, 2017

In this special podcast episode, Curious City presents three Chicago disaster stories as told at the Old Town School of Folk Music on March 30, 2016. Inspired by questions posed from Chicago-area residents, the tales range from the practically comica...Show More
O'Hare's Ghost: Whatever Happened to Terminal 4?

07:58 | Dec 25th, 2016

The area’s premier airport sports Terminals 1, 2, 3 and ... 5. What gives?
The Willis Tower In 150 Years: Adapted, Demolished or Abandoned?

12:16 | Dec 18th, 2016

What will happen to the Willis Tower in 150 years? In this special Curious City presentation, producer Jesse Dukes and the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Jen Masengarb envision three future scenarios for the iconic skyscraper, and for the Chicago ...Show More
Christmas Tree Lots: Who Are The Folks Who Keep The Season Bright?

08:29 | Dec 11th, 2016

Pop-up tree lots sprout up on every Chicago corner during the holiday season, only to disappear. Who are the people who make these happen and what's the business like? As one operator says it, "It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s over in about three and...Show More
When Church Meets State: Picking Apart Prayer in Aurora’s City Council

08:49 | Dec 4th, 2016

Aurora leads council meetings with prayer, and it sometimes raises eyebrows. But would a judge ever smack it down?
City Beautiful? Why Some Chicago Neighborhoods Have Viaduct Art and Others Don't

08:29 | Nov 27th, 2016

Murals beautify some viaducts, while others are left bare and dirty. Why the disparity?
Tips For Hunting Chicago’s Long-lost Recipes

08:34 | Nov 20th, 2016

The city's top recipe sleuths share their secrets as we recreate a divine, but elusive, fried chicken dish.
The Swinging Times of Chicago's Revolving Doors

08:28 | Nov 11th, 2016

Tempted to ignore the revolving door? Here are the revolutions that made the city a magnet for this seemingly simple device.
Why The Illinois Lottery’s Been No Jackpot For Schools

13:10 | Nov 6th, 2016

Schools are really crimped for cash. Hold up, wasn’t the lottery supposed to help with that?
Second City: The Origins of Chicago’s One-way Rivalry with New York

09:49 | Oct 30th, 2016

There was a time Chicago gave New York a run for its money. How did we end up the Second City?
Fighting For Scraps: What It Would Take For Chicago To Get Citywide Composting

08:47 | Oct 23rd, 2016

Minneapolis and San Fran do it. Even Oak Park’s got a program. What gives? Photos of how municipal composting works in Oak park, interviews and the prospects for change in Chicago.
From Rust to Repurposed: A Second Life for Chicago’s Abandoned Bikes

04:42 | Oct 16th, 2016

That sorry-looking bike on the curb could end up in the hands of a local kid or even a family overseas. Full story with additional interviews and photos: http://wbez.is/2dgqDAf 
Daley vs. Little Italy: Did the Mayor Drop UIC on the Neighborhood Out of Spite?

12:13 | Oct 9th, 2016

Why did Richard J. Daley push for the UIC campus to rise from the heart of a long-standing ethnic neighborhood? In this special Curious City presentation, reporter Monica Eng examines the pervasive suspicion that the mayor’s choice rose from a politi...Show More
From Rails to Trails: The Economic Impact of Chicago’s Repurposed Railways

08:52 | Oct 2nd, 2016

As The 606 stokes fears of economic displacement, the city wants to repurpose more rail lines. What's the state of research on this?
The Making Of Polish Chicago

26:58 | Sep 18th, 2016

This Curious City special mini-documentary answers how the Polish became one of Chicago’s largest and most influential ethnic groups. And, come to think of it, is there anything to the claim that the city has the most Poles outside of Warsaw?
The Painters Who Give Chicago's Grocery Signs The Human Touch

08:26 | Sep 11th, 2016

Craftsmanship and economics combine to keep the city's tradition of distinctive hand-painted signs alive in the digital age.
How Chicago Beaches Get and Keep That Nice Fine Sand

08:45 | Sep 4th, 2016

Here’s why you shouldn’t  that "sand between your toes" experience for granted!
Chicago Parks Drinking Fountains That Tested Positive For Lead So Far

0:00 | Sep 2nd, 2016

Ongoing lead tests suggest more than five percent of parks have at least one fountain with high levels of lead in the water.
Displaced: When The Eisenhower Expressway Moved In, Who Was Forced Out?

13:25 | Aug 28th, 2016

The Ike was the city’s first superhighway. In this special presentation, people affected open up about how it scattered ethnic neighborhoods and changed many lives forever. 
Why The 1992 Loop Flood Is The Most Chicago Story Ever

13:13 | Aug 21st, 2016

How clout, corruption, and construction without permits led to half the Loop being evacuated.
Why Is Gambling Banned On The CTA?

13:12 | Aug 14th, 2016

Commuters are regularly hit with the announcement “Gambling is prohibited on CTA trains.” We find the reason behind the rule and look for those who inspired it.
Zeppelin Poseurs: Why Chicago's Airship Dreams Never Took Off

13:15 | Aug 8th, 2016

In the 1920s, the city was head over heels for airships. So why did it let this once-futuristic technology float away?
Veggies in City Planters: Tasty Kale Bait or Jailbait?

0:00 | Aug 4th, 2016

Tempted by kale, cabbage and chard grown along the city's streets? Here's why you shouldn't treat public planters like personal salad bars.
A Tale of Resale: How Big Chains’ Produce Ends Up in Local Grocery Stores

09:00 | Jul 31st, 2016

When one Chicagoan found brand-name Brussels sprouts at a bargain produce market, she had to wonder: How did these get here? And why are they so cheap?
Why Chicago Lightning Bugs Light Up One Neighborhood But Not the Next

05:02 | Jul 25th, 2016

A listener’s nostalgia for catching lightning bugs as a kid lead her to wonder: Are there any left these days? Our experts say they’re around, just really, really fickle.
The Heart Of The City: Finding Chicago’s Geographic Center

08:45 | Jul 18th, 2016

It smells like garbage and gym shoes, but, surprisingly, the city’s geographic center says a lot about Chicago’s soul.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Inside Downtown Chicago's Windowless, Doorless Buildings

12:53 | Jul 10th, 2016

Here’s a peek at what goes on inside some of these “mystery buildings” and how their architectural disguises have evolved over the decades.
Getting to the Bottom of Lake Michigan's Legendary 'Shark Attack'

08:58 | Jul 1st, 2016

Rumor has it a young George Lawson was attacked by a shark while swimming at a Chicago beach in 1955. Is it true, or just a bunch of bull shark?
Stories Behind CTA ‘L’ Lines’ Strange Curves, Dips and Twists

08:35 | Jun 13th, 2016

Here’s who and what to blame if you spill your coffee on your commute.
What Killed The Cook County Fair?

08:57 | Jun 6th, 2016

Before it fizzled out, the summer shindig’s blue ribbons, plump pumpkins and animal shows united a large, diverse county.
The Killing Of Fred Goree: A White Cop, A Buick And Segregation In The Age Of Negro League Baseball

13:30 | May 30th, 2016

Sisters seek details about their grandfather’s Chicago baseball team, and his killing by a white police officer in 1925.
Escape From Chicago: How Long Would It Take to Evacuate?

12:56 | May 23rd, 2016

The city’s cagey on estimates, but suggests you bring your best walking shoes.
Mixed Signals: Do Chicago's Crosswalk Buttons Actually Work?

08:56 | May 16th, 2016

The city’s pushing pedestrian-friendly design, but it’s left one consideration at the curb.
Why Chicago BYOBs Like Nobody’s Business

13:01 | May 9th, 2016

Combine gangster-era liquor laws with a twist of modern creativity, add a dash of laid-back spirit, and you’ve got a cocktail that makes Chicago the BYOB capital of the country.
Chicago’s Killer View: The Skyline’s Toll On Migratory Birds

08:32 | May 2nd, 2016

Each migratory season leaves a flurry of birds dead at the feet of skyscrapers. But does that make a dent in the bird population?
Chicago’s Tornado-Proof Delusion

13:37 | Apr 25th, 2016

Yes, tornadoes can hit Chicago. Why do so many people think otherwise?
Illinois Has No Budget, So Where Do State Tax Dollars Go, Anyway?

26:44 | Apr 11th, 2016

The answers are crazy. We’ll have fun looking. But you’ll probably be pretty mad by the end. Things are worse than you thought. The bad news: We’re paying out billions more than we take in. Just without setting priorities. The state comptroller — who...Show More
Little Eddie's Field Trip: The Union Stock Yards Through the Eyes of an Eighth Grader

04:27 | Mar 28th, 2016

Decades ago, Chicago’s  Union Stockyards were the source of meat for the country, jobs for the city and ... field trips for Chicago Public School children. Really. (Related to a Curious City story about meatpacking in Chicago.)
Not in Your Front Yard: Why ‘For Sale’ Signs are Banned in Oak Park

09:11 | Mar 21st, 2016

The village insists a decades-old rule to fight blockbusting continues to protect a precious suburban commodity: diversity.
Have We Hit Peak Mattress? Why Chicago Has So Many Mattress Stores

08:30 | Mar 14th, 2016

If this retail mystery’s keeping you up at night, here are answers. Plus: Have we hit peak mattress? Warning: More puns ahead!
Chicago Architects: Why the City’s New Buildings Don’t Look Like Its Classics

13:03 | Mar 7th, 2016

Today’s Chicago architects answer why they build the way they do, and to what degree their inspiration comes from the city’s past. Full story, with photos and additional interviews from Chicago architects and developers.
What Happened to Chicago's Rifle Ranges?

0:00 | Feb 5th, 2016

Rifle sport shooting was once so popular in the city that even ComEd and schools had competitive teams. Today, there's not a range in sight.
That Time Chicago Sent a Trainload of Snow to Florida

08:30 | Jan 15th, 2016

How one girl’s dream for a snow day came true during the infamous blizzard of 1967.
The Fall of Chicago's 'Porkopolis' and the Rise of Niche Meat

0:00 | Dec 23rd, 2015

The city was once the nation’s meatpacking powerhouse. What, if anything, is left?
Curious City: The Mystery Collection

0:00 | Dec 18th, 2015

Answers to listeners' questions about the mysterious side of Chicago that lies beyond the soaring skyscrapers and the sheen of the Bean.
Ferry-tale: Could a Chicago-to-Michigan Ferry Return from Extinction?

0:00 | Dec 11th, 2015

Lake Michigan was once a passenger steamer superhighway. Could a Chicago-to-Michigan route make a comeback?
The Swinging Times of Chicago's Revolving Doors

0:00 | Dec 4th, 2015

Tempted to ignore the revolving door? Here are the revolutions that made the city a magnet for this seemingly simple device.
Half Day Road and the Origins of a Semantic Slip-up

12:44 | Dec 3rd, 2015

A half day from ... what? Why this suburban myth is not even half true, and why the same mistake was made again 600 miles away.
Fare Game: When do CTA Buses Break Even?

0:00 | Nov 20th, 2015

A look at how many riders it takes to make a bus profitable.
Mold-A-Rama-Rama! The Secrets Behind Chicago's Plastic Souvenir Empire

0:00 | Nov 13th, 2015

How a Chicago-area famiHow a Chicago-area family turned cheap plastic souvenirs into a nostalgia empire.ly turned cheap plastic souvenirs into a nostalgia empire.
Blacksmiths: The 'Plastic Surgeons' on Chicago's Payroll

0:00 | Nov 6th, 2015

The City of Chicago employs 20 full-time blacksmiths. But what do they do? And what's with the ancient job title?
'Poland elsewhere': Why So Many Poles Came to Chicago

0:00 | Oct 30th, 2015

How generation after generation of Polish families made the city into a 'Poland elsewhere.' 
Can Chicago Brag about the Size of its Polish Population?

0:00 | Oct 26th, 2015

A Grabowski team of demographA Grabowski team of demographers help us test the city’s claim of having the most Poles outside Poland.ers help us test the city’s claim of having the most Poles outside Poland.A Grabowski team of demographers help us tes...Show More
Don't Believe the Height! Why Chicago Suburb Names Flat Out Lie about their Elevation

0:00 | Oct 16th, 2015

From Chicago Heights to Mount Prospect, here’s why Chicago suburb names flat out lie about their elevation.
Shadow City: How Chicago Became the Country's Alley Capital

0:00 | Oct 10th, 2015

How Chicago became the alley capital of the country and why so much of the rest of the region is conspicuously alley-free.
How Strictly do Chicago Police Enforce Bike Traffic Laws?

0:00 | Sep 18th, 2015

Just as the city’s encouraging more biking, it’s handing out more bike tickets.  
The Design of the Wrigley Scoreboard: Revolutionary, Retro or Both?

0:00 | Sep 11th, 2015

Yeah, it's a Chicago icon in green and white, but did it change information design forever?
Nice Pipes: The Inner Workings of Buckingham Fountain

0:00 | Sep 4th, 2015

The lowdown on how the fountain shoots water so high, and why it was built to impress in the first place.
Beyond Deep-Dish: Exploring Chicago's Other Native Foods

0:00 | Sep 2nd, 2015

A list of meaty, messy and often obscure city originals that's meant to get you out of your comfort zone.
Mystery Boat: Alone and Idle in a Waterlogged Corner of Chicago

0:00 | Aug 26th, 2015

Ever see this rusty old freighter off the Bishop Ford Expressway? Its backstory says a lot about the Great Lakes shipping industry.
Are there fallout shelters left in Chicago?

0:00 | Aug 19th, 2015

There are plenty, but let’s just say they’re not ready for a nuclear apocalypse.
Where are Chicago's Poor White Neighborhoods?

0:00 | Aug 12th, 2015

Poverty touches all races in Chicago, but it's more visible among blacks and Latinos. Here's why that happens and why it matters.
Shoes on a Wire: Untangling an Urban Myth

0:00 | Aug 5th, 2015

From teenage mischief to possible drug markets, a search for the real reasons sneakers end up on power lines.
Black Business' Slow Flight From Bronzeville

0:00 | Jul 30th, 2015

In its heyday the neighborhood was flush with black-owned businesses. Where did they go? And, did the end of legal segregation play a part?
Chicago's Best Stargazing Spots

0:00 | Jul 22nd, 2015

Chicago’s notorious light pollution hides the stars, but here’s where you have a fighting chance to peek at the heavens.
Here's Harold! (The Robot Edition)

0:00 | Jul 15th, 2015

The DuSable Museum says — creepy or not — its Harold Washington robot will teach you a thing or two about the city’s first African-American mayor.
What Really Happens to Chicago's Blue Cart Recycling?

0:00 | Jul 1st, 2015

The program is no sham, but a good number of recyclables still head to landfills.
In Chicago, eternal rest ain't so eternal

0:00 | Jun 18th, 2015

How often do the dead make way for planes, parks and other local development? More than you'd think.
Beyond The Rattle And Clatter: When The CTA 'L' Is Your Neighbor

0:00 | Jun 10th, 2015

Living near the CTA means life in a rattling fishbowl, but some Chicagoans adapt.
The unsung hero of urban planning who made it easy to get around Chicago

0:00 | May 20th, 2015

Unsung urban planning hero Edward Brennan tamed a chaotic 19th-century street-numbering system.
Were Chicago's Public Schools Ever Good?

0:00 | May 13th, 2015

We start an era-by-era search for the district’s ‘golden age’ and wonder: Could it be right now?
What does the Lincoln Park Zoo do with all its poo?

0:00 | May 6th, 2015

Yes, it tosses most of it, but a smidge is stored and studied. That’s where it gets interesting!
Uptown's moment as a 'Hillbilly Heaven'

0:00 | Apr 29th, 2015

Why tens of thousands of white Southern migrants made the North Side neighborhood home, only to leave a short time later.
Why apartments are the blind spot in Chicago's recycling program

0:00 | Apr 15th, 2015

Here's why there's no recycling offered at so many large apartment and condo buildings.
The Legacy Of Michael Jordan In Chicago

0:00 | Apr 1st, 2015

The city rode high when ‘His Airness’ played for the Bulls. But what did he leave behind?
Chicago's forgotten Civil War prison camp

12:43 | Mar 11th, 2015

Camp Douglas’ deadly reputation was kept in shadows but now there’s a surprising movement to bring it to light.
Building Skyscrapers on Chicago's Swampy Soil

0:00 | Mar 4th, 2015

Engineers once compared Chicago’s soggy soil to jelly cake. How did they build a forest of skyscrapers on it? 
The Rise of Casimir Pulaski Day

12:27 | Feb 25th, 2015

How Chicago’s Polish community won a Revolutionary War hero a holiday ... in a state he never stepped in.
No Conspiracy Required: The True Origins Of Chicago's February Elections

0:00 | Feb 18th, 2015

Sure, the timing’s awful for campaigning and voting, but it wasn’t some trick concocted by the Democratic Machine. In fact, it was meant to empower voters.
When Will Chicago Get Its Next Supertall Skyscraper?

0:00 | Jan 28th, 2015

A Chinese developer wants to alter the city skyline and break a dry spell in a field we once dominated.
When is Chicago-area Traffic the Worst?

0:00 | Jan 9th, 2015

Let our info about the Let our info about the worst hours, days and seasons for road congestion steer you clear from a traffic-induced personal hell.