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William Donald Schaefer saluted at his landmarks

Baltimoreans and tourists alike paid tribute to William Donald Schaefer on Tuesday as they visited city landmarks that reflected his influence.

The former city councilman, mayor, comptroller and governor died Monday at the age of 89. Those who remembered his impact recalled Schaefer and his legacy, including the Inner Harbor and promenade, as well as Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Harborplace and the light rail system.

“I call him Mayor Schaefer, ’cause to me, he’s the mayor, he gave us all this,” said Dennis Mullaney from Dundalk, who took the day to walk around the promenade and pay respects to a statue of Schaefer at the Inner Harbor.

The statue was surrounded with bouquets of flowers Tuesday afternoon. One was marked with a note that read, “Harborplace and The Gallery will never forget you.”

Hear from visitors at Schaefer’s statue Tuesday

Many who stopped at the statue were curious visitors from other states or countries and learned about Schaefer for the first time when hearing the news of his death.

Allan Bowen, of Birmingham, England, said he knew of Schaefer’s contributions through teaching American politics courses and the television show “The Wire.” Bowen, his wife Jean Bowen and sister-in-law Peggy Lidster were visiting Baltimore and had stumbled upon the statue after learning of Schaefer’s death.

“What he did is of great interest,” Allan Bowen said. “While it wasn’t intentional that we found his statute here, we should certainly pay homage for what he did.”

As Baltimore mayor from 1971 to 1987, Schaefer gained exposure across the country for reviving the industrial city and transforming its waterfront.

“I do remember him saying, I guess this was in the early ’70s, that people would be living at the waterfront,” Mullaney said. “It was very hard to believe. I remembered this being just a vacant field. The warehouses around here were all just run down. And he did it.”

The area became tourist-centered, with attractions such as the National Aquarium, Harborplace and The Gallery and the Maryland Science Center, which line the harbor.

When the aquarium’s construction was delayed before it opened in 1981, Schaefer turned the delay into a public relations triumph by plunging into the aquarium’s seal tank while wearing a striped Victorian-era swimsuit and holding a rubber duck. The ordeal was the fulfillment of a pledge Schaefer made that he would swim in one of the tanks if the facility failed to open on time.

That seal tank is no longer there. It was removed during an expansion in 2005, said Jennifer Bloomer, a spokeswoman for the National Aquarium.

“He was a pretty good man to go through all of that, because everybody else would have backed out,” said Dorian Carr of Baltimore, who visited Schaefer’s statue Tuesday to reminisce. “I really believe that he helped create all of this, and that was beautiful.”

As governor from 1987 to 1995, Schaefer helped shape the development of Oriole Park at Camden Yards as part of a downtown sports complex that today also contains M&T Bank Stadium. Schaefer was also an advocate for the Metro rail line and a light rail system to connect the city, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

Pushing for the light rail was one of Schaefer’s bigger contributions, said Barker Much of Essex, who was walking out of Citibank in the William Donald Schaefer Building on St. Paul Street Tuesday.

The 37-story tower, built in 1992, is one of the tallest buildings in the city. It is one of several buildings and places named after Schaefer around the state.

Morgan State University has an engineering building dedicated to Schaefer. And the University of Baltimore’s public policy center is also named after Schaefer, an alumnus considered a “visionary public servant,” said Ann Cotten, director of University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy.

“I’m glad he had a long healthy life. Eighty-nine years is feeling good,” Much said.

Among Schaefer’s lesser-known contributions is Mothers’ Garden in Clifton Park, which was originally dedicated to Baltimore mothers in 1926 by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks.

Schaefer rededicated the garden in 1984 to his mother Tululu I. Schaefer. The serene park with a domed edifice and benches sits on top of a hill. But it was vacant Tuesday and weeds were sprouting among the walkway.