a possible solution for Israel/Palestine

Best line: “Residents, however, drew the line at any type of official security border, creating a line of flower pots instead.”


Rumor has it that the 18th-century surveyors who drew the official line between the U.S. state of Vermont and the Canadian province of Quebec were drunk, because the border lurches back and forth across the 45th parallel, sometimes missing it by as much as a mile. But the residents of the border towns didn’t particularly mind, mostly because they ignored it altogether.

For nearly 200 years Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec, essentially functioned as one town. Citizens drank the same water, worked in the same tool factory, played the same sports (primarily curling), fought in the same world wars, and were born in the same hospital in nearby Newport, Vermont. They also shared the same cultural center, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, an ornate Victorian edifice built deliberately on top of the international border in 1901 by the Canadian wife of a wealthy American merchant.

In the last 15 years, though, the common culture of the two towns has been eroded, largely due to the increased emphasis on securing the U.S. border in the years following 9/11. Gone are the days when a local resident could walk across the dividing line with a smile and a wave. But against all logic, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House continues to serve both Vermonters and Quebecers, and remains a transnational space that residents from both the U.S. and Canada can enter without a passport. Today, it is the only library in the world that exists and operates in two countries at once.

image-1Of course, Haskell couldn’t have predicted the advent of moving pictures, which immediately cut into opera house profits, and so the Opera House has limped along for nearly a hundred years, supported by the more modest public library below it. But committed devotees have kept it alive, and during the summer season you can still catch a show or listen to live music. Most of the seats are on the Canadian side, though, so in all likelihood you’ll sit in Canada and watch performers located in Vermont.
The library downstairs is a bit less ornate–there aren’t any cherubs–but there are carved wooden fireplaces, large bay windows topped with stained glass, and built-in oak cabinets. The elegant fireplace is currently being used to display picture books. A line of electrical tape on the floor demarcates the exact international border. The line itself is a relatively recent addition. After a small fire in the 1970s incited a fight between American and Canadian insurance companies, the parties insisted on bringing in a surveyor to mark the exact border so that they knew who would have to pay out next time.


It’s easy for Americans to go into the Haskell–they merely walk through the front door. But for Canadians it’s a little more complicated, because they technically have to cross the international line, which is demarcated by a cement obelisk and a line of flower pots. “It does feel a little bit like you’re passing through some DMZ,” library director Nancy Rumery remarks, referring to a demilitarized zone.

While Canadians are guaranteed safe passage to the library, it’s a bit of a harrowing journey. To enter they have to walk past a series of security cameras on Church Street and then past the U.S. border guard stationed out front. As long as they collect their books and walk back the way they came, everything is fine. But if they walk out and continue into the U.S. they’ll be picked up for illegal entry. “We pretend that no one left Canada,” Rumery explains.


via {atlas obscura}