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Riversdale

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Riversdale was the plantation of the Belgian émigré Rosalie Stier Calvert (1778–1821) and her husband, George Calvert (1768–1838), a planter and direct descendent of the Proprietary Governors of Maryland. Though estates were usually owned by men in the early Republic, Riversdale is one of the few that passed from father to daughter. Rosalie received the house and land from her father, Henri Joseph Stier (1743–1821), as part of her inheritance, and oversaw the development of its extensive grounds. Much of what is known about the layout of the estate derives from Rosalie’s correspondence with her European relatives.

Overview

Alternate Names: Baltimore House, Calvert Mansion, Riversdale Mansion
Site Dates: 1800 to present
Site Owner(s): Henri Joseph Stier (1743–1821), Rosalie Stier Calvert (1778–1821) and George Calvert (1768–1838), Charles Benedict Calvert (1808–1864), Riverdale Park Company, Thomas H. Pickford (1862–1939), Thaddeus Caraway (1871–1931) and Hattie Wyatt Caraway (1878–1950), Abraham Walter Lafferty (1875–1964), Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Associated People: William Russell Birch (1755–1834)
Location: Riverdale Park, Md.
View on Google maps

History

Fleeing the terror unleashed by the French Revolution, the aristocratic Stier family left their native Belgium for the United States in the autumn of 1794. Henri Joseph Stier intended to stay abroad with his wife, his two grown children and their spouses, and his teenage daughter Rosalie, until they could safely return to Europe. The family settled briefly in Philadelphia before relocating to Annapolis, where they lived in rented properties. Henri was disinclined to purchase or build a home since he felt certain they would not be long in the United States.

Texts

  • Anonymous, August 1848, describing Riversdale, estate of George and Rosalie Stier Calvert, Prince George's County, Md. (American Farmer 4:53)[1]
The main building is 68 by about 50 feet, with an elegant Portico on its northern [front], and a Piaza [sic], running its entire length, on its southern front, each constructed with due regard to classic and architectural propriety. . . .On either front is an ample lawn with shade trees, grass plots, parterres, shrubbery, and flowers, whose effect upon the senses impart an interest to the view, warm the mind into admiration, and give assurance, that a chastened taste and artistic skill had presided while these were being fashioned into form. . . . These improvements were made by the present proprietor’s ancestors, in the beginning of the present century, but are still in a state of the most perfect preservation.


  • Warden, David Bailie, 1816, describing Riversdale, estate of George and Rosalie Stier Calvert, Prince George's County, Md. (1816: 156)[2]
The establishment of George Calvert, Esq. at Bladensburg, attracts attention. His mansion, consisting of two stories, seventy feet in length, and thirty-six in breadth, is admirably adapted to the American climate. On each side there is a large portico, which shelters from the sun, rain, or snow.


  • Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1856, describing Riversdale, estate of George and Rosalie Stier Calvert, Prince George's County, Md. (1856: 6) [3]
The kept grounds are very limited, and in simple but quiet taste...There is a fountain, an ornamental dove-coat, and ice-house.

Images

Other Resources

National Park Service Register of Historic Places Documents

Riversdale Historical Society

Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County

The University of Maryland Riversdale Book Shelf

Notes

  1. Anonymous, "Visit to Riversdale," The American Farmer and Spirit of the Agricultural Journals of the Day 4, no. 2 (August 1848): 52–55, view on Zotero.
  2. David Bailie Warden, A Chronographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia (Paris: Printed and sold by Smith, 1816), view on Zotero.
  3. Frederick Law Olmsted. A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States: With Remarks on Their Economy (New York and London: Dix & Edwards and Sampson Low, Son & co., 1856), view on Zotero.
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