Haskell Free Library and Opera House

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Haskell Free Library and Opera House
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House is a neoclassical building that straddles the international border in Rock Island (now part of Stanstead, Quebec) and Derby Line, Vermont. The Opera House opened on June 7, 1904, and was built on the border between Canada and the United States. The library collection and the opera stage are located in Stanstead, but the door and most opera seats are located in Derby Line. Because of this, the Haskell is sometimes called "the only library in U.S.A. with no books" and "the only opera house in U.S.A. with no stage". Its two addresses are 93 Caswell Avenue, Derby Line, Vermont and 1 Church Street, Stanstead, Quebec. 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 international boundary. The stage and half of the seats are in Canada, the remainder of the opera hall is in the US. 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. Registered in the National Register of Historic Places since 1976 and also a Canadian historical site and provincial heritage building of Quebec, this landmark also appeared in Ripley's Believe It or Not .

The building was created by American sawmill owner Carlos Haskell and his Canadian wife Martha Stewart Haskell for use by the people of both countries; profits from the opera house were originally intended to support the operation of the free library. 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 Mr. 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"English books have titles written top-to-bottom, and French books bottom-to-top"the language of a book can be immediately determined.