Fleeing the terror unleashed by the French Revolution, the family of Belgian aristocrat Henri Joseph Stier left their native country for the United States in the autumn of 1794, intending only to remain until they could safely return to Europe. But when the youngest of Henri’s three children, Rosalie, married the Maryland planter George Calvert in 1799, the family decided to make their home in the United States.<ref> Callcott, 1–17, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/8VB4PVER/q/calcott view on Zotero].</ref>
Calvert, a direct descendent of the Proprietary Governors of Maryland, was an exceptionally wealthy landowner, possessing over 3,300 acres by 1800, which comprised the tobacco farm he inherited on the Patuxent River, Mount Albion, along with other tracts of land in Prince George’s County, including a small lot in the town of Bladensburg.<ref>Steven James Sarson, ''The Tobacco-Plantation South in the Early American Atlantic World'' (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 26–28, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/ZHS3A4LB/q/sarson view on Zotero].</ref> When Henri began searching for property, his son-in-law suggested 729 ½ acres nearby, which would become the site of Riversdale.<ref>Calcott, 23–25, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/8VB4PVER/q/calcott view on Zotero]. The property was purchased in his son’s name, Charles John Stier, who had become a naturalized American citizen; Henri would gain citizenship only later that year.</ref> Benjamin Henry Latrobe was commissioned to oversee the design and construction of the house, but Henri was vexed by his inefficiency and replaced him with the Washington architect William Lovering. <ref>Calcott, 28–29, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/8VB4PVER/q/calcott view on Zotero].</ref>
Despite the Stier family’s plans to remain in the United States, Henri’s son and daughter-in-law returned to Europe in 1802, and reported that Napoleon was offering safe return to émigrés who had fled the Revolution.<ref>Calcott, 33, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/8VB4PVER/q/calcott view on Zotero].</ref> Henri and his wife, along with their elder daughter and her family, decided to join them. Rosalie—married to an American husband, with a young daughter and another child on the way—was determined to remain in her adopted country [fig. 1]. The news disappointed her father: “Since no hope remains of seeing all my family reunited, I must join the greater number.”<ref>Henri Joseph Stier to Charles Joseph Stier, November 1802, quoted in Calcott, 35, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/8VB4PVER/q/calcott view on Zotero].</ref> He offered her the land and the newly built house, making a point to have the estate placed in Rosalie’s name.<ref>Henri had an antenuptial agreement drawn up for Rosalie and George Calvert, which ensured that her inheritance would go directly to her children or, if the marriage produced no issue, reverted to the Stier family. Despite this, Rosalie still had to become a naturalized citizen of the United States and required an act of the Maryland Legislature in order to be legally recognized as the owner of Riversdale. See Calcott, 19–20, and William Kilty, Thomas Harris, John N. Watkins, eds., ''The Laws of Maryland from the End of the Year 1799, with a Full Index, and the Constitution of This State, as Adopted by the Convention, with the Several Alterations by Acts of Assembly: and an Appendix Containing the Land Laws; with the resolutions Considered Proper to be Published'', vol. V (Annapolis: J. Green, 1820), 1754, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/keywords_in_early_american_landscape_design/items/itemKey/N43UCBYT/q/kilty view on Zotero].</ref>

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