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Haskell Library & Opera House – Stanstead, Québec & Derby Line, Vermont
Opened in 1904 the Haskell free library and opera house was deliberately built on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border as a tribute to the spirit of friendship between the two countries.
Setting up a shared library and opera house between the sleepy little border communities of Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec was the brainchild of Canadian Martha Stewart Haskell.
It was meant not only to honour her late husband, American sawmill owner Carlos Haskell, but to further cement the bond between neighbors in both towns.
Over the years these two little communities had become so intertwined that today they share firetrucks, water and sewer systems, and there are many bi-national bloodlines among the families that live there.
After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington D.C., border security was tightened considerably to the point that the towns’ three streets that crossed the border without going through customs checkpoints were gated. Henceforth anyone crossing the border, even if only on foot to visit neighbours for coffee, was now required to report in to the local border patrol and customs office first 😦
Fortunately townsfolk on both sides of the border were able to petition Canadian and U.S. Customs to make one small exception to the new rules specifically for the Haskell.
Since the main entrance is on the Vermont side, the rules were relaxed allowing Canadians to cross the border on foot to access the library without having to report to U.S. Customs just to take out a book.
Let’s take a look inside and check out some of the doors and other features, shall we?
The Haskell is full of wonderful old woodwork
and antique hardware
including gorgeous pressed tin ceiling tiles with a different pattern in each room
Of course the one thing that every out of town visitor comes to see at the Haskell is the famous line running diagonally across the floors to signify the international border that actually runs through the building
We took advantage of one of the guided tours which are available several times a day for only $5.00 U.S. or Canadian – a 30% bargain for Canadians based on the current exchange rate 😉 – of course all proceeds from the tours go towards the upkeep of the library.
After touring the ground floor library which contains over 20,000 volumes in both English and French our guide took us upstairs to see the opera house.
Thinking ahead and knowing that new books cost money, Mrs. Haskell had included the opera house in her plan so that the profits from shows could help to finance the library.
Here’s the billboard for the inaugural show back in June of 1904:
The opera house has a total capacity of 400 on two levels, with hard old wooden not-so-comfy seats for their patrons.
Hence the need for this sign I guess?
More of those ceiling tiles and some lovely ornate plaster work on the balcony facade.
One of the features I found amusing were these under-seat hat holders so that proper gentleman of the day wouldn’t be obstructing the view of the stage for those behind them.
Another shot of the border – the stage is in Canada while most of the seats are in the U.S.
Despite this post being a little sparse on gorgeous doors, I do hope you enjoyed the tour as much as did. In fact Honey and I are making plans to go back to the Haskell to check out a show sometime in the fall.
For anyone interested in visiting, the closest highway to the Haskell heading southbound east of Stanstead Quebec, is provincial Autoroute 55 – on the Northbound side, I-91 takes you just east of Derby Line Vermont. On either side, it’s the last exit before the border.
If you’d like to read more about the Haskell and its history click on the link to their website back up at the top of this post.
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As always I thank you for looking 🙂