Chet Ager Building
Exhibits in the Chet Ager Building provide information about wetlands and woodlands, including saline wetlands found in eastern Nebraska. Large windows overlook Heron Pond and a garden with plantings, feeders, and water features that attract a wide variety of birds. The Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden and Children’s Garden are nearby.
Plants and animals of the Great Plains and prairie ecosystems are highlighted in exhibits at the Prairie Building. The building includes many green building(PDF, 66KB) features including straw-bale construction, geo-thermal heating and air conditioning, the use of recycled and low VOC materials and a green roof. It was the first building in Lincoln to be awarded LEED certification. The building is surrounded by prairie plants, including a labeled demonstration garden area.
The Prairie Building contains:
- More than one thousand square feet of exhibit space, including live animals
- Public restrooms and drinking fountain
- Nature Preschool classrooms
- Nature Center administration offices
- Gift Shop with snacks and a wide variety of nature-related items including books, note cards, field guides, and toys
- Malinovskis Auditorium (rentable space)
The natural setting of this flexible meeting room makes it a unique and peaceful rental space overlooking a pond and prairie. Ideal for business or club meetings, events, lectures, training seminars, workshops, retreats, birthdays and anniversaries, the room provides auditorium-style seating for 80, or for 60 at tables. Tables, chairs, sound and video equipment are included, as well as a kitchenette and coffee urns to make it easy for you to provide refreshments. Two doors lead to a large deck for additional space and views, steps away from the prairie trailhead. To make a reservation, call 402-441-7895.
Lynn Johnson Nature Education Building
The Education Building, built in 2020, provides a learning lab for students and program participants to engage with the outdoors. The Lincoln Parks Foundation helped to secure funding for this project. Contributors include the Thelma and Hugo Aspegren Trust and the Mildred Barret estate. This building is not open to the public.
The Cunningham School, Saunders County District 113 was originally located 7 miles north and 2 miles west of Valparaiso, Nebraska. It was first built in the 1800’s. It was destroyed by fire and replaced by this building in the 1930’s. The coat room and supply room were later additions. The school was retired from use in 1968 and purchased from Adolph Klimert in 1975 by the State Fair Board for use in the Heritage Village. It was moved to the Nature Center on November 1st, 2009.
During the school year, area 4th-grade school children experience history as they spend a school day as they might have in the late 1800’s. Standing on a hill at the edge of the Martin Prairie, the school is open to the public only during special events.
“Thomas Jefferson Hudson was born in 1826 in Indiana. After several westerly moves, he rented an Otoe County farm in 1861. Two years later the Hudsons acquired a quarter section of land, through the Homestead Act, south of the village of Lancaster. On his arrival he noted that his only true neighbors were living in two dugouts on Salt Creek. Oak logs were hauled in from near Germantown (now Garland, NE) in the fall of 1863, milled flooring lumber came from Nebraska City, and the almost-unheard-of luxury of wood shingles came from McKisick’s Island east of the Missouri River northeast of Peru, Nebraska.
The cabin was noted as being the “largest and grandest house, and the only shingled roof, upon the whole site of [Lancaster] out on Salt Creek.”
The Village of Lancaster became the City of Lincoln, and the homestead became part of the Irvingdale neighborhood on South 10th Street. Over time the cabin was enlarged and built upon, concealing its nature behind more modern construction. In 1964 the “buried” cabin was discovered during a remodeling project. Lincoln Mayor Dean Peterson "saved it” by purchasing it for $5,000. The Junior Chamber of Commerce set out to raise funds to reconstruct it inside a new structure in Van Dorn Park, but the plan failed. The cabin was disassembled and stored in a warehouse until 1974, when the Lincoln Parks Department transferred title to the Nebraska Historical Society. With the aid of funds appropriated by the legislature, the cabin was reconstructed as part of Heritage Village on the fairgrounds.”
- Jim McKee, Lincoln Journal Star, November 2009
On June 22, 2010, the Hudson Cabin was moved to Pioneers Park Nature Center. It is used during 4th-grade Prairie Immersion hikes to give students a sense of the size of a ‘grand’ log house in the early days of our city – it measures 14 x 16 feet! The cabin is open to the public only during special events.
The gardens that surround the Prairie Building are designed to help visitors appreciate the beauty and diversity of prairie plants. Many are drought tolerant choices for home gardens. Labels allow identification of plants that can be seen in our prairie.
Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden
Located north of the Chet Ager Building, was established in 1972. Mrs. Doole was an editor of The Nebraska Farmer and author of several books on herbs. A complete renovation of the garden was undertaken in 2003 using funds from an endowment given by the Doole family, and a Greenspace Initiative Grant administered by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. The garden has grown from 16 herbs to a display of over 150, many with identifying labels. Staff and volunteers perform the day-to-day garden maintenance.
Irene and George Alexander Bird Garden
is located west of the Chet Ager Building and was established the spring of 2012. The garden is a bird sanctuary and demonstrative backyard wildlife habitat filled with feeders, a water feature and variety of flowering plants and shrubs. Visitors can view the garden through the windows of the Chet Ager Building or from the bird blind surrounding it.
The Children’s Garden
A raised-bed vegetable and flower garden that is planted and tended to by children participating in Nature Center programming. In addition to developing their motor skills, they learn about plant life cycles. Everyone, adults and children alike, is welcome to explore and enjoy the plantings.
Edna Shields Natural Play Area
Come out and play in the dirt, create a masterpiece with sticks and pods, crawl through a log, dig in the sand, build a fort and have some fun! The area is sensory-rich and a treasure trove of experiential learning, imagination and wonder.
Research has found that frequent, unstructured play in natural environments is a strong positive influence on the developmental needs of young children. Benches are available for parents while children spend hours crafting their own activities using natural materials.