The Chicago Fire. Mrs. O’Leary’s Barn. Fort Dearborn. Al Capone. We’re not going to talk about any of that here — at least not in the ways you’ve heard before.
Instead, you’ll find chapters of Chicago history missing from most textbooks. We bring you stories from Chicago’s past that range from near-death pair-o-chute rides to rides on funeral train cars; forgotten zoos to abandoned hospitals; produce markets to telephone exchanges; infamous asylums to anonymous (but fascinating) sidewalks. And yes, we talk about the Great Fire. But, how about this angle: What would Chicago look like if the fire had never happened?
All of these stories started from questions you’ve asked and you’ve helped us report. There are enough of them that it’s worth recapping what we’ve learned about the Chicago area’s peculiar past — through the lens of residents’ own curiosity.
The audio playlist above begins with an hour-long special featuring questions that span from the 1800s to today. You’ll hear about Victorian-era sexuality, forgotten graves near an insane asylum, radioactive secrets, missiles that were a little too close to home, a long-gone amusement park, seedy motels and … doughnuts, of all things. Below, we follow up with videos that tell what happened to Union Park’s menagerie, what it was like to visit the 1893 World’s Fair and why residents on the city’s Northwest Side were afraid of Dunning Asylum for the Insane.
If you want to bring alive the history of Chicago, the region or its people ask your question right now! Otherwise, enjoy tales of local history — Curious City style!
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