These houselights cross the line
DERBY LINE, Vt. - Northern New England's border with Quebec is a somewhat tangled affair, with a few communities cleaved in two, and families split on either side. Also exhibiting a split personality is the Haskell Free Library & Opera House, built smack-dab between Derby Line and Stanstead, Quebec.
"It's the only US library without books - the stacks are in Canada - and the only US theater with no stage - it's in Canada," quips librarian Mary Roy. A gift to the communities from Martha Stewart Haskell, construction on the granite-and-yellow-brick, Queen Anne Revival-style building began in 1901. The 400-seat Opera House opened in June 1904, the library seven months later.
The library is furnished with original antiques and accented by architectural features, including tiled fireplaces, stained glass windows, and spectacular woodwork. What distinguishes it, though, are the thick lines bisecting not only the library's foyer and main reading room, but also the theater in the upstairs Opera House.
The theater is a work of art in itself, dripping with gilded plaster ornamentation and painted with fanciful scenes. Ask in the library for an opera house tour, available for a $3 donation per person. Better yet, time a visit to coincide with a performance.
"At the Haskell," says Sylvie Larrivée, Opera House coordinator and guide, "it's possible to see someone become an international star overnight."
Haskell Free Library and Opera House, 93 Caswell Ave., Derby Line, Vt., 802-873-3022, or 1 Church St., Stanstead, Quebec, 819-876-2471, www.haskellopera.org.