Infrastructure & Environment

May 2014 Last Look: One Building Divided Between Two Countries

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House was intentionally built straddling the border between Quebec and Vermont.
by | May 2014
Francis Vachon

This story is part of Governing's annual International issue.

Library users and theatergoers in the towns of Derby Line, Vt., and Stanstead, Quebec, have something in common. Besides sharing an international border, they also share a combination library/theater. Completed in 1904, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House was intentionally built astride the border to provide the two communities with a cultural center. A painted line delineating the border runs across the floors of both the library on the ground floor and the opera house above it. In the library, the stacks are in Canada, and upstairs in the opera house, audiences sitting in the U.S. applaud performers on the Canadian stage. Locals say that the Haskell is “the only library in America with no books” and “the only opera house in America with no stage.” There are a few jurisdictional complications. For instance, if the opera house needed to be evacuated, patrons must exit through a newly built fire escape on the Canadian side of the building. As a result, any Americans in the audience would have to immediately report to the immigration office up the road.

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