The current $800,000 restoration of the Druid Hill Park conservatory is modest compared with a grandiose notion nine years ago when city officials planned a $6.4 million complex called the William Donald Schaefer Conservatory.
Back then, city parks chief Chris Delaporte wanted to pay homage to his boss, Mayor William Donald Schaefer, with a 70-foot-high, H-shaped conservatory to surround the 19th-century Palm House at the southern end of Druid Hill Park. The complex was to have included new gardens, greenhouses for storage and $50,000 worth of artwork.
More than $100,000 in tax dollars was spent on designs by the time Kurt L. Schmoke became mayor. He shelved the plans as federal and city funds dwindled.
The Schmoke administration estimated the expanded conservatory would have cost a prohibitive $1 million a year to maintain.
"We had finished the documents and were ready to go to construction," said Jay Graham, the landscape architect who was hired to design the complex. "We were in the Schaefer era. We were looking for things that did capture people's imagination."