To see the results of our 2nd Forensic Genealogy Survey, click here!
Quiz #60 - May 12, 2006
Photo courtesy of David Lepitre.
The laying of the cornerstone of this building took place in 1901. It has been
described as "the only library in America with no books" and "the only opera
house in America with no stage".
1. What is the name of this building?
2. Why would you technically need a passport
to check out a book from the library?
**********
Answers:
1. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House
2. The library is straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada.
**********
Many thanks to David Lepitre, President of the Board of Directors of the
Haskell Free Library for supplying this week's quiz photo and most of the
following information about and additional photos of the library.  
After entering the library's main door in Derby Line, Vermont, you proceed Northeast
down the hall towards the main desk. You pass under the watchful gaze of the library's
founders Martha Stewart Haskell and her son Horace Stewart Haskell.  As you take the
last few steps to the main desk you will notice a black, diagonal line on the Italian
marble terrazo floor. As you cross that line you leave the United States and enter
Canada.  You have gone from Vermont to Quebec without encountering a border guard
or stopping at Customs. If you were outside of the The Haskell and made the crossing
you would have had to do so.

This wonderful building was the gift of Martha Stewart Haskell and her son Horace
Stewart Haskell who had the library constructed as
a memorial to her late husband and his father,
Carlos Haskell. Mrs. Haskell, a Canadian by birth,
wished to leave a cultural and learning center for
both the residents of Rock Island, (now Stanstead)
Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont the home of her
husband who was an American.

The Haskell houses a 25,000 plus book library on
the ground floor and a beautiful late Victorian,
Opera House on the upper floors. The granite and
brick building was designed by Rock Island born,
Boston based architect, James Ball, it was
constructed by contractor and Civil War veteran,
Nathan Beach of Georgeville, Quebec. The adult
book stackroom and the children's library are in the
Canadian part of the library hence the tag line "the
only library in America with no books". The books
are in both English and French and most of the
staff are bilingual.
Martha Stewart Haskell
1831 - 1906
http://www.townshipsheritage.com/E
ng/Hist/Arts/haskell.html
After considerable research there appears to be no truth to the story that the Haskell is a
The Haskell Free Library today.
watch a performance on stage in Canada.

Both countries claim the Haskell as an historic site. The building and its facilities are
governed by a seven-member board of trustees -- four Americans and three Canadians
The International
Boundary runs
through the Kenneth
Baldwin International
Reading Room
A painted scene of Venice by Erwin
Lamoss (1901) on the drop curtain and
plaster scrollwork complete with
plump cherubs ornament the opera
hall and balcony in this historic
building
Back at the turn of the century local folks cheered the
Columbian Minstrels -- "a grand revival of old-time,
black-face minstrelry." There was a Grand Chorus of 40
voices, six white "end men" in black face, and A.C.
Cowles did the honors as "Mr. Interlocuter." Eugene
Cowles, A.C.'s brother, the star of the evening, was a
world renown vocalist, the Elvis of his day.Yassa, Mister
Bones, may be considered politically incorrect today, but
was not in 1904. History must be judged in itw own
context. The evening was replete with "new songs, new
jokes, and beautiful electric effects."

Plus, there was a performance of the spoofy new
musical comedy "The Isle of Rock" that was "founded
on facts and figures." (The Haskell was in Rock Island,
Quec. and Derby Line, Vt.) A framed original poster
ballyhooing the Grand Opening still hangs in the Haskell.

http://www.haskellopera.org/
Poster for the first
performance at the Haskell
Opera House, June 7, 1904
**********
Interesting Facts
Lodge in Two Countries

At one time The Lively Stone Lodge occupied a lodge room which was bisected by the
boundary between Canada and the United States. It became the Golden Rule Lodge in
Stanstead after the War of 1812. The lodge had entrances from the Vermont and
Canadian sides; the membership of the lodge consisted of men from both sides of the
border. Established in Stanstead in 1814, Golden Rule is the oldest masonic lodge -- and
indeed, one of the oldest institutions -- in the Eastern Townships.

Famous for its splendid lodge room, its location close to the Canada-U.S. border, and its
bi-national membership, Golden Rule Lodge is also known for its annual pilgrimages to
the top of Mount Owl's Head, overlooking Lake Memphremagog. See
http://www.townshipsheritage.com/Eng/Articles/General/goldenrulelodge200.html and
http://users.1st.net/fischer/STRANG02.HTM. The men in the quiz photo are wearing
mason aprons. Some were likely from the Golden Rule Lodge, but the top men in the
provincial and state levels of the Free Masons were there in numbers. Laying a
cornerstone was an important event to them, as it was again in 2004 when the
cornerstone ceremony was repeated.


Unique International Street

Canusa Street is split in two – right up the middle. The homes on one side of this
famous street are situated in Beebe Plain (Stanstead), Canada; the homes just across the
street are in Beebe Plain, USA --hence, the name CAN-USA. Both the Canadian and
American customs are to be found at the bottom of Canusa Street, and residents on
either side of Canusa must report to the appropriate customs if they intend to cross the
street. Canusa Street has been widely written up and is a popular local curiosity. See
http://www.townshipsheritage.com/Tours/Tour5/tour5-oddities.doc.

(Former) World’s Only International Post Office

Beebe Plain (Stanstead), Quebec & Beebe Plain, Vermont - cross the street from both
the Canadian and the American Customs in Beebe is an imposing building made out of
blocks of locally-quarried granite. Known as a “line house” because it was erected
directly astride the Canada-US border, the building was built as a store in the 1820s by
Horace Stewart, Martha Stewart Haskell's father, who lived in the elegant red brick
house next door. On April 1, 1864 post office were added. Many individuals had post
offices in their buildings or stores, but they had to vote the right way to be given such a
plum. It had one postmaster, but two doors and two postal counters, each serving
customers from a different country. The “World’s Only International Post Office,” as it
was dubbed by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, functioned into the 20th century. Today it is
an apartment building . The iron post that marks the border may still be seen to the right
of the front door. See
http://www.townshipsheritage.com/Tours/Tour5/tour5-oddities.
doc.
**********
Our Readers' Comments
M. Diane Rogers -Bonjour from British Columbia. I have fond memories of Stanstead
& hope to go back some day & would love to travel around Vermont. Just for the
record though, 'America' is a very big place---two continents really. Canada & the
United States are both in America. {GRIN) Great photo---I imagine that the lone
woman I see is Martha Stewart Haskell, & one of the men on the platform may be her
husband?

The man behind Martha is her son Col. Horace C. Haskell. Her husband Carlos
Haskell was deceased at the time the library was constructed.

Pat Snyder - As an aside, my daughter Frann is married to Jeff Haskell of
Massachusetts. I don't know if Jeff is related to these Haskells, I haven't done his
family. I have found out a little about his family, and do know there was a Major
Haskell and I am pretty sure he is related to the one who founded the Haskell
University.  He does have some Native American in his line.  His family is from the
Boston area.

Jim Kiser - For extra points: memebers of the ceremony were wearing Masonic
aprons. Note the flag on the left with the compass. I suspect the women on the stage
was Martha Haskell but could not locate a newpaper article about the ceremony. I may
try later.

Richard Cleaveland - Hah!  I Googled "the only library in America with no books" and
got referred to your site!  Man, that's fast!

Ha Ha!  Now I didn't do that.  Maybe one of our regulars works for Google and likes
the quizzes. Or maybe the quiz came out just as a web crawler was slithering by.
**********
Congratulations to our winners!

Stan Read               Patrick Carney
Mary E. South             Margaret Waterman
Judy Pfaff                Elaine C. Hebert
M. Diane Rogers           Ellis Nienhaus
Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer
Betsy Scott                Delores Martin
Carol Phillips                Bobbie Simms
Don Haase                Martin Guidry
Pinky Palladino                Susan Fortune
Richard Cleaveland               Debbie Sterbinsky
Eva Royal                Carol Haueter
Maureen O'Connor            Kelly Fetherlin
Edee Scott                Rick Mackinney
Fred Stuart                Jim Kiser

If your name has been omitted from our list of winners, please let me know.  It was unintentional.
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Counter
-- who serve without pay. The library lives up to the
"free" part in its name: there are no membership fees, and
no loan charges are made for book, tapes, or videos. All
art exhibits, discussion groups, and other library programs
are also free. You must usually pay to attend Opera House
performances, and performers rent the Opera House but
are allowed to set their own prices. See
http://www.pbpub.com/haskell.htm.

The library has a collection of more than 25,000 books
and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday until 8 p.m. Registered in
the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, this
landmark also appeared in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

In the early 1990s, Vermont's handicapped-access and
fire-safety regulations placed a limit of 50 spectators in the
Opera House at one time. In 1996, a very special
retrofitting of the Haskell (to install a sprinkler system and
elevator without it being obtrusive) closed the Opera
House temporarily during the off-season. Historic preservation people from both sides
of the border ensured that the Haskell remained visually un-altered. The Board,
architects from US and Canada, and the contractors took the utmost care to see that
nothing spoiled the grand old building.  Since 1997, it has hosted a full schedule of
performances.
http://www.townshipsheritage.com/Eng/Hist/Arts/haskell.html.

In 1961, further construction on the border was officially banned by the International
Boundary Commission. Major repairs to any line house needs to be vetted by the
International Boundary Commission.
scaled down version of a Boston opera
house. The rumor may have started
because of the input of the architect and
another Bostonian, Vermont-born Erwin
LaMoss, one of the foremost scenic
artists of his day. LaMoss painted the
Haskell's five gorgeous sets of stage
properties in his Boston work rooms and
they are still in the Haskell collection
today. They are the last examples of his
work known to exist. The stage and half
of the seats in the opera house are in
Canada making the Haskell the only opera
house where you can sit in America and
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