Yesterday, the City of Baltimore honored its most beloved mayor and former Maryland governor, William Donald Schaefer with the unveiling of a statue to memorialize his distinguished political career in Maryland. The statue lives in the middle of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which is fitting since Schaefer’s most notable accomplishment was the transformation of the Inner Harbor from an industrial shipping area to a multi-million dollar tourist attraction and the gem of Baltimore.
The National Aquarium was one of the first additions to the Inner Harbor. In the mid-1970s Mayor Schaefer conceived and championed the idea of an aquarium as a vital component of the redevelopment. William Donald Schaefer is truly the Aquarium’s hero because if wasn’t for him, the National Aquarium may not exist today. Dozens of staff members and volunteers, as well as the Aquarium’s first board president, Frank Gunther, attended the ceremony yesterday to pay tribute to the man who brought our Aquarium to life.
Schaefer’s idea for an aquarium may have been his best idea for the City of Baltimore. In 1976, residents supported the Aquarium by voting for it on a bond referendum, and the groundbreaking for the facility took place August 8, 1978. The Aquarium’s world-class status was recognized by the United States Congress, which granted the facility national status. The National Aquarium in Baltimore opened to the public exactly three years later on August 8, 1981. Today the Aquarium is huge economic driver for the city and is the most visited destination at the Inner Harbor.
Schaefer is also known for his hilarious dip in the Aquarium’s seal pool, which has turned out to be his most famous photo op! The mayor lost a bet with a developer who said the National Aquarium would not open on schedule. When the initial date passed, the mayor put on his bathing garb, grabbed a Donald Duck squeaky, and jumped into the seal pool that used to be outside of the Aquarium. The pictures live on in Aquarium history. Many see Schaefer as he is represented in the beautiful new statue, but at the Aquarium, this how we like to remember our hero: