By the early 1800s had Joseph-Jacques Ramée already established a reputation as a skilled designer of landscapes combined with houses and other kinds of buildings. New York State land speculator David Parish, for whose father Ramée had designed an estate in Hamburg, Germany, persuaded Ramée to visit America in search of projects.
Ramée arrived in the northern Adirondacks in late 1812 to work on projects in and around the small towns on Parish's vast tracts. Parish also acted as agent in finding Ramée other work. On a return trip to Philadelphia in January 1813, Parish introduced Ramée to Eliphalet Nott, the ambitious president of Union College anxious to relocate the school to a large plot he had already purchased for the purpose. Nott hired Ramée almost immediately to draw up plans for the new campus, for the sum of $1,500.
Ramée worked on the drawings for about a year, and construction of two of the college buildings, North and South Halls, proceeded quickly enough to permit occupation in 1814. The Union College campus thus became the first comprehensively planned college campus in the United States.