Off-Centered Adventures

Trading Passports for Library Cards

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Sitting on the border of Canada and the United States, this is the only opera house in the world to have an address in separate countries. Purposely built to pledge allegiance to two flags, this structure automatically enrolls performers into an international tour.

Wishing to give back to her community in honor of her late husband, Martha Haskell, along with her son Col. Horace Stewart Haskell, had the idea of constructing a cultural center. Housing a library and an opera concert hall on the second floor, Haskell wanted to make sure that communities on either side of the border would be able to enjoy the arts building, and thus had the Haskell Opera House and Free Library deliberately on the international line in 1904. 

For over 100 years, audiences on both sides of the fence have been able to enjoy musical performances without the stamp of a passport.

Living right on a border presents some unique situations for the century-old concert hall. The library’s bookshelves technically sit on the Canadian side, along with the opera’s stage. Thus, Haskell is the only library in the USA without any books and the only opera house without a stage. There is no main entrance from the Canadian side, so Canadian patrons are given a special “dispensation” by U.S. border patrol to walk along rue Church to get inside as long as they exit the building using the same route. 

For over 100 years, audiences on both sides of the fence have been able to enjoy musical performances without the stamp of a passport. From stimulating operatic recitatives to the twang of a bluegrass banjo, music coming from the Haskell Free Library and Opera House is truly “heard ‘round the world.”

:memo: Written by: Seamus McMahon

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