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Curious City

Chicago Public Media

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.


Chicago, IL


Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.




848 East Grand Ave Navy Pier Chicago, Illinois 60611 888-789-7752


Paletas and Paleteros: The Art of the Cart

Paletero Victor Cruz says selling popsicles takes “patience.” Curious City learns the tricks of the trade.


Where Did Chicagoans Go To Drink During Prohibition?

This week on Curious City, we’re visiting the spots where Chicagoans would enjoy their beer and spirits during Prohibition.


Chicago’s Tornado-Proof Delusion

In 1967 a tornado hit the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn. It’s been a defining moment in the village’s history. Thirty three people were killed that day, 500 were injured. There was at least $40 million in damages in 1967 which, adjusted for inflation, would amount to more than $250 million today. More recently a tornado damaged more than 200 homes in suburban Chicago, including heavily populated Naperville. But despite their proximity to Chicago, lots of Chicagoans still believe a tornado won’t...


How Clean Is The Water At Chicago’s Beaches?

It’s that time of the year where we can all finally hit the beach. But our listeners have a lot of questions about Chicago’s beaches. Like, how clean is the water? How much poop is in there? And why are some flotation devices banned? Curious City’s Monica Eng puts on her sun visor and a good deal of sunscreen and tracks down the answers.


What’s The Deal With ‘Midwest Nice?’

The common stereotype for Midwesterners is that we’re polite, friendly...and passive-aggressive. But is there any truth to that? Reporter Andrew Merriweather goes looking for the answer.


What’s Happening With Chicago’s Toxic Lead Service Lines?

Illinois passed a new law last month that sets a deadline for the state to replace all of its toxic lead service lines -- those pipes that deliver drinking water to our homes and park fountains. Curious City’s Monica Eng fills us in on how long it's going to take to get rid of all the lead lines.


A Gardener Pushes For Legislation To Help Extend The Growing Season

Last year we met Elmhurst gardener Nicole Virgil, who was fighting for the right to put up a hoop house in her garden. A hoop house is an inexpensive way to help extend the growing season. It protects the crops from the wind and snow and can keep the soil from freezing. Virgil took her fight all the way to the state legislature. Curious City’s Monica Eng tells us what happened next.


“Living In Gotham City.” How Some Musicians Survived A Shuttered Industry

As Illinois reopens, Chicago area artists Lori Lippitz of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Lynne Jordan of Lynne Jordan and the Shivers, Juan Dies of Sones de Mexico and D2x reflect on what the last 15 months have been like, how the pandemic has shaped their music, and what they’re looking forward to as full capacity crowds come back.


What’s The History Of Chicago-Style Giardiniera?

Curious City’s Monica Eng investigates the origins of Chicago’s favorite spicy condiment: giardiniera. This humble jar of veggies packed in oil has roots in Sicily, and Monica tracks down at least two different Chicago families who believe they should be credited for the original recipe. Plus, what’s the right way to say it anyway?


Why Chicago Suburb Names Lie About Their Elevation

In the notoriously flat Chicago region, what gives with names like Chicago Heights, Mount Prospect and Park Ridge?


Safe At Work: The Life Of Alice Hamilton

Scientist Alice Hamilton’s investigations into toxins in Chicago’s factories led to some of the first workplace safety laws in the country. She was known for her “shoe leather” epidemiology, wearing out the soles of her shoes from all the trips she made to Chicago homes, factories and even saloons to figure out what was making people sick. Reporter Edie Rubinowitz has her story.


WBEZ’s Beginnings With The Board Of Education

WBEZ, where Curious City gets produced, actually began as a radio station that broadcast educational programs for kids. In this week’s episode Monica Eng explores WBEZ’s roots in education and looks at how we went from math and fairy tales over the radio to a news and information station. Goodbye “Lady Make Believe,” hello “All Things Considered.”


Can Anyone Propose Legislation To City Council?

Little-known fact: in Chicago, you don’t need to be an elected official to propose legislation to City Council. But does this process really work? Has anyone ever done it? WBEZ city politics reporter Claudia Morell investigates. Along the way she speaks to a former governor and a cab driver who have tested it out for themselves.


Who Tolls The Bells In Chicago?

If you hear church bells ring in the Chicago-area, it’s likely they’re automated. Some bell systems are pneumatic or electronic. Others pipe digital hymns through amplifiers. But do real people ever ring real bells? That’s the question we’re exploring in this week’s episode. And the answer is yes! We head to five different spots, each with its own sound, unique history and distinct community.


Art, Protest And The Trial Of The Chicago 8

In 1969, Chicago was home to one of history’s most high-profile trials. Known as the Trial of the Chicago 8 — and sometimes the Trial of the Chicago 7 — the trial pitted anti-war protesters against the federal government. Eight men were accused of conspiring to incite a riot during protests that took place in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention of 1968. Outside the courtroom, protesters and onlookers gathered. Some chanted to free the men. Some came with signs and posters of...


Chicago's Hillbilly Heaven

Why tens of thousands of Southern migrants made the Uptown neighborhood home, only to leave a short time later. And WBEZ's Natalie Moore tells us about her investigation into the history of racially restrictive deeds and covenants, and how YOU can help.


How Bagels Got To Chicago And Where To Eat Them

Curious City reporter Monica Eng and editor Alexandra Salomon try to help one listener who claims NY has better bagels find some good ones in Chicago. Plus, we trace the local history of the donut-shaped bread: From its arrival in the U.S. with Jewish immigrants to mass production to a renaissance of local artisanal bakers who have gone back to the traditional way of making them.


Three Historic Chicago Hoaxes And Pranks

Chicago historian Paul Durica shares famous ruses, hoaxes and stunts pulled by (and on) local media.


The Environmental Impacts Of The Chicago River Reversal

We dug into the Curious City archives and pulled out one of our favorites, a story about the Chicago River. Chicago’s bold maneuver to reverse the Chicago River diverted sewage away from Lake Michigan, allowing Chicago’s continued growth. But it was hardly a perfect solution. The effects of the groundbreaking engineering feat are still being felt today -- even as far as the Gulf of Mexico. Reporter Carson Vaughan has that story.


COVID-19, One Year Later

We’ve reached the one-year anniversary of Chicago’s stay-at-home order. From schools going virtual to plastic shields lining the grocery store check-out lane, just about every aspect of life has been affected by the pandemic. To mark all the change this year has brought, we hear some essays from folks who’ve written about their experiences. Plus we look to the future and visit some vaccination sites to answer a listener’s question about what the vaccine means to people. From “cautious” to...