Amazing Places

The Haskell Free Library Straddles the Border of Two Countries

You enter the Haskell Free Library and Opera House in Derby Line, Vermont, but if you venture toward the nearby bookshelves, you'll find yourself in Stanstead, Quebec. The building sits directly on the border between the U.S. and Canada, and its unusual location is no accident.

Haskell Free Library On US-Canadian Border


The library was commissioned by Martha Stewart Haskell and her son Colonel Horace Stewart Haskell in dedication to Mrs. Haskell's late husband, Carlos, a prominent merchant in the border community. Martha was Canadian and Carlos was American, so it only made sense to erect a building that united the two countries under one literal roof. That location wasn't the only border-blurring detail about the library: the building was designed by Quebecois architect James Ball and his American partner, Gilbert Smith. The construction, likewise, was overseen by Masons from both sides of the border.

Record Breaker

Its spot on the border gives it a few remarkable claims to fame: since the library books and circulation desk are on the Canadian side but the entrance is on the U.S. side, the building has been called the only library in the U.S. with no books. Likewise, the opera-house stage is in Canada and its seats are in the U.S., so it's the only U.S. opera house with no stage. And though the building was conceived as a gift to both countries, the border on each side of the building is fenced off. The only way to walk freely between Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec is to visit the library.

For more stories and vivid imagery of this little-known border community, check out "The Vermont-Quebec Border: Life on the Line" by Matthew Farfan. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House: a Cultural Gem on the Canada-U.S. Border

Written by Ashley Hamer September 7, 2017

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