When Jenny Dauer visited Lincoln for a job interview in May, she stopped by Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill for dinner.
Little did she know that the historic Haymarket building in which the restaurant is housed was originally the Bennett Hotel and built in 1915 by her great-great-grandfather.
“I knew that we had some connections with Nebraska in our family history, but I didn’t really know much about it until I came here,” said Dauer, assistant professor of practice.
As it turns out, Dauer’s great-great-grandfather, John G. Cordner, was a prolific Lincoln-area architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And, thanks to research already gathered by her mother, Dauer was able to do some historical digging of her own once she was offered the job and moved to Lincoln.
“When I arrived, I asked Bob Kuzelka (an emeritus associate professor) about it because he knows a lot about the architecture in the area,” she said.
That conversation led Dauer to Ed Zimmer at the Preservation Association of Lincoln. Zimmer gave her a five-page document detailing all of the known buildings Cordner designed and constructed.
Many of these buildings are still standing and operational, including the Bennett Hotel, the College View library on the Union College campus, and the home to the Yia Yia’s pizza parlor at 1421 O St.
Dauer created an interactive map featuring some of the structures Cordner built.
“(John) seemed like a really interesting person,” Dauer said. “He spent 28 years teaching Sunday school at the state penitentiary. He was really involved in the community and in doing service for the community.”
Cordner was born in Ohio in 1857. He lived in Iowa with wife Adella before moving to Lincoln and building his home near 55th and O streets.
“The house is still there,” Dauer said. “I’ve gone and looked at it. It’s actually for sale.”
Cordner and his wife would go on to have six children, including son Ted Cordner, Dauer’s great-grandfather.
Tragically, Ted died when he was 35. His wife, Lucile, passed away a decade later at the age of 42. They left behind three sons: Ted, Walker and James, Dauer’s grandfather.
James was just 10-years-old when his mother died. He was taken in by his aunt and uncle. They would eventually leave Nebraska and move south.
“I knew some stories about my grandfather getting adopted and that Ted had died young,” Dauer said. “All of John’s kids moved away as adults. It’s really interesting because none of the family stayed in Lincoln — no one in my family has been here until me.”
Both Dauer and her husband Joe were hired as part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ recent focus on science literacy. The hiring is also part of IANR’s goal to recruit 36 new faculty positions to key subject areas.
Now that she’s living in Lincoln, Dauer’s exploration of her family history is just beginning.
“My mom and I spent one afternoon just looking at places,” she said. “Learning about my family history these last few months has been an interesting lens to view the history of Lincoln.”