The Stier-Calvert Mansion, 1801-1807
In the summer of 1794, as French Republican troops approached Antwerp, Flemish aristocrat Henri Joseph Stier (1743-1821) and his family fled to Philadelphia, taking with them their most valuable possessions, including the finest collection of Old World master paintings ever to cross the Atlantic at that time.
The Stier family moved to Annapolis in 1795. There Rosalie, the Stier's younger daughter (1778-1821) met George Calvert (1768-1838), a delegate to the Maryland Legislature and grandson of the fifth Lord Baltimore, the founding family of Maryland. Calvert was master of Mount Albion, a large plantation near Upper Malboro. He and Rosalie were married in the summer of 1799, spent part of their honeymoon trip at Mount Vernon, and took up residence at Mount Albion, now known as Goodwood.
In 1800, Henri Stier bought farmland near the port of Bladensburg and set about building a plantation house. Henri Stier and his wife moved into the east wing in 1802. In 1803, the Stier family, except for Rosalie, took advantage of an amnesty to return to Antwerp. The development of the plantation was left to Rosalie and George Calvert, who moved into the still unfinished house, by then called Riversdale, and completed its construction by 1807. They raised their children at Riversdale and spent the rest of their lives there. They are buried in the nearby Calvert family cemetery. Rosalie's letters to her family, published in Mistress of Riversdale,
offer an intimate picture of upper-class family live near the Federal City in the days of the Republic and are a basis for the present restoration of the mansion. The painting collection remained at Riversdale until 1816, when it was returned to Antwerp; since then the paintings have found their way into museums and private collections all over the world.
In 1838, Riversdale passed to Rosalie and George Calvert's second son, Charles Benedict Calvert (1808-1863)—U.S. Congressman, progressive farmer, and principal founder of the Maryland Agricultural College, now the University of Maryland at College Park. His heirs eventually sold Riversdale and some 450 acres in 1887 to a New York firm developing a planned "railroad suburb" called Riverdale Park.
During the next 50 years, Riversdale had a series of private owners. In the late 1940s, retired U.S. Congressman Abraham Lafferty sold the house with its remaining grounds to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which used Riversdale as offices until restoration began in 1988. Riversdale was reopened to the public in 1993 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.