Haskell Free Library and Opera House

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House (French: Bibliothèque et salle d'opéra Haskell) is a Victorian building that straddles the Canada–United States border, in Rock Island (now part of Stanstead), Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont, respectively. The Opera House opened on June 7, 1904, having deliberately been built on the international border. It was declared a heritage building by both countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

Haskell Free Library and Opera House
French: Bibliothèque et salle d'opéra Haskell
Haskell Free Library and Opera House in 2012
LocationStanstead, Quebec, Canada
Derby Line, Vermont, U.S.
Coordinates45°0′20.5″N 72°5′52″W / 45.005694°N 72.09778°W / 45.005694; -72.09778
ArchitectNate Beach & James Ball
Architectural style(s)Romanesque Revival, Victorian, Queen Anne Revival
Official nameHaskell Free Library and Opera House National Historic Site of Canada
Designated15 November 1985
Designated8 September 1976
Reference no.76000143[1]
Official nameÉdifice Haskell Free Library and Opera House
TypeClassified heritage immovable
Designated22 December 1977
Reference no.93138[2]

The library has two different addresses: 93 Caswell Avenue, Derby Line, Vermont, and 1 rue Church (Church Street), Stanstead, Quebec.



The library collection and the opera stage are located in Stanstead, but the main entrance and most opera seats are located in Derby Line. Because of this, the Haskell is sometimes called "the only library in the U.S.A. with no books" and "the only opera house in the U.S.A. with no stage". There is no entrance from Canada; however, there is an emergency exit on the Canadian side of the building. All patrons and visitors must use the U.S. entrance to access the building. Patrons from Canada are permitted to enter the United States door without needing to report to customs by using a prescribed route through the sidewalk of rue Church (Church Street), provided that they return to Canada immediately upon leaving the building using the same route.[3]

A thick black line runs beneath the seats of the opera house and diagonally across the center of the library's reading room to mark the Canada–United States border.[4] The stage and half of the seats are in Canada; the remainder of the opera hall is in the US. The building has different postal codes (93 Caswell Avenue, 05830 and 1, rue Church (Church Street), J0B 3E2) and different telephone area codes (+1-802-873-3022 and +1-819-876-2471) in its two respective countries.

The library has a collection of more than 20,000 books in French and English and is open to the public 38 hours a week.

The building is recognized as a historic site in both countries. In the United States, it has been registered in the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. In Canada, it was designated a National Historic Site in 1985[5] and has been a provincial heritage site since 1977.

Following the Trump travel ban, the library served as a site for international reunions, as it is partly in Canada and partly in the United States.[6]


The international boundary is marked as a black line on the floor of the reading room of the Haskell Library. In this picture, Canada is on the right side of the line and the United States is on the left.

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House was a gift from Martha Stewart Haskell and her son Horace "Stewart" Haskell. It was built in memory of her parents Catherine and Horace Stewart and her husband Carlos Freeman Haskell. The Haskells wanted Canadians and Americans to have equal access to the Library and Opera House and so they chose to build on the border. Construction began in 1901; the Opera House opened in 1904 and the Library in 1905.[7]

The opera house on the second floor was rumored to be modeled after the old Boston Opera House in a somewhat scaled down fashion (it seats four hundred), but the Boston Opera house was built afterwards. A painted scene of Venice on the drop curtain and 4 other scenes by Erwin Lamoss (1901) and plaster scrollwork complete with plump cherubs built in Boston ornament the opera hall and balcony in this historic building, which was constructed with 2-foot-thick (0.61 m) walls built of granite from Stanstead.

The Haskell family later donated the building to the towns of Derby Line and Rock Island in Haskell's memory; it is run by a private international board of four American and three Canadian directors.



French and English books are co-filed. Because of different language conventions in the direction of printing titles on spines—American English books have titles written top-to-bottom, and French books bottom-to-top—the language of a book can be immediately determined.

See also



  1. ^ "National Register of Historical Places – VERMONT (VT), Orleans County". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-02-07.
  2. ^ Ministère de la Culture et des Communications. "Édifice Haskell Free Library and Opera House". Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec (in French). Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  3. ^ "Visiting Information". Haskell Free Library & Opera House. Retrieved May 13, 2024.
  4. ^ "Chapter 2: The 45th Parallel". United Divide: A Linear Portrait of the USA/Canada Border. The Center for Land Use Interpretation. Winter 2015.
  5. ^ Haskell Free Library and Opera House National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  6. ^ Torbati, Yeganeh (2018-11-29). "Separated by travel ban, Iranian families reunite at border library". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  7. ^ "Haskell Free Library and Opera House". Alpine Web Media, LLC. 2015. Archived from the original on March 26, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015.