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Haskell Free Library and Opera House

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Date Founded: 
1904
Mission: 

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, built deliberately on the boundary line separating Canada from the U.S., was the gift of philanthropists Martha Haskell and her son Horace Stewart Haskell, to the communities of Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec. The idea was to provide the Border area with a centre for learning and cultural enrichment. Books are lent free of charge to local residents. The Opera House upstairs was designed as a venue for plays and concerts. It had a practical purpose, as well. According to the Haskell's charter (1908), the Opera House was to be "forever managed and used for the support and maintenance" of the Library.

larger_img_1066.jpgThe Haskell Free Library and Opera House is unique in the world. Patrons from either side of the Border enter the building without passing through customs. The international boundary is marked off with a black line across the ground floor of the building. The entrance and half of the reading room are situated in the U.S., while the other half of the reading room and all of the books are on the Canadian side. Upstairs in the Opera House, the stage is in Canada, but most of the seats are in the U.S.

Classified as a historic site by the governments of Canada, the United States, and the province of Quebec, the building is famous not only for its location, but also for its lavish interiors, architecture, and unique ambiance. The Haskell is managed by a board of trustees composed of three Canadians and four Americans.

Physical Description: 

a) Haskell Free Library: Main floor. The Library contains offices, a reading room, a children's reading room, stacks, and a check-out desk. It also contains the Haskell Archives.
b) Haskell Opera House: Mezzanine, second, and balcony floors. The Opera House contains a ticket booth, dressing rooms, stage, sets, and 400 seats on two levels.

Collections: 

medium_haskell.band_.jpgThe Library contains about 20,000 books, plus periodicals, videos, and educational material. A rotating French-language section contains another 4,500 volumes.

The Opera House is especially proud of its collection of original curtains, sets, and props, designed and painted by Boston scenery painter Erwin LaMoss in 1902, and the last of his works known to survive.

The Haskell Archives are a rich repository of historical documentation relating to the institution, the Haskell family, and the local communities. (Access to the Archives is by special permission only).

Special Activities: 

Story-telling (French and English). Reading Club. Monthly art shows. Educational exhibitions. Guided tours (summer only; groups require reservations). The Opera House entertainment schedule runs from April to October (please inquire for shows, dates, and ticket prices).

Publications: 

medium_haskell.stage_.jpgThe Haskell Free Library and Opera House (2000), [pamphlet]: $1.00.

The Making of the Haskell Free Library and Opera House: The Construction Years, 1901-1904 (1999), [Limited numbered edition]: $25.00

A Guide to the Haskell Archives (1999): $25.00

Business Hours: 

Library - Year-round: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Opera house - April-October.

Fees: 

Free entry to the library.
Fee for seasonal guided tours of the opera house; Ticket prices vary for opera house shows.

Languages:

English
French
Address: 

In Canada:
Address: 1 Church, Stanstead, QC, J0B 3E2.

In the United States:
Address: P.O. Box 337, Derby Line, VT, 05830.

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Telephone: 
Canada: (819) 876-2471; U.S.: (802) 873-3022
Fax: 
(802) 873-3634

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