Leave this town’s library the wrong way and get arrested
Legend has it that drunken 18th century surveyors are responsible for one of our most ridiculous borders. Others say it was just a silly mistake.
Either way, the tiny town of Derby Line – its streets, even its library – is split between Canada and the United States of America.
Most Ridiculous Borders : The only library in the U.S.A. with no books
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House is the only library to span two countries. To enter it, Canadians 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.
The library was deliberately built on the international border by a Canadian/American couple in 1904. They intended that people on both sides of the border would have use of the facility without having to go through border security.
The library collection and the opera stage are located in Stanstead, but the main entrance and most opera seats are located in Derby Line. Because of this, the Haskell is sometimes called “the only library in the U.S.A. with no books” and “the only opera house in the U.S.A. with no stage”.
A line marks the border on the floor, but only at the insistence of American and Canadian insurance companies anxious not to pay for the other country’s claims.
Legend has it that back in the day the Beatles used to meet there. John was banned from the US so he would enter the library from the Canadian side with George, Paul and Ringo coming in from the US side.
The locals claim that George, Paul, and Ringo used to stay to relax afterwards because they could walk around and everyone just treated them a regular people.
Most Ridiculous Borders : Canusa Street or Rue Canusa
A 620-yard stretch of Highway 247 is called Canusa Street in Vermont and Rue Canusa in Quebec.
On Canusa, the border runs east-west more or less right down the middle of the street. Drive on the north side, going west, and you are in Canada. Drive east and you are in the United States.
Want to cross the street or go on an errand? You have to report in at the U.S. or Canadian border posts.
The border stations are close by, but often you have to queue. The fine for not checking in is a steep $5,000 and/or two years in jail on the U.S. side and 1,000 Canadian dollars on the Canadian side.
One lady on Canusa described to the Washington Post how she no longer visits her Canadian neighbor Mylène :
“If we are going to talk to each other, she stands on her side, and I stand on mine,” she said.
Enjoy this border weirdness? Take a look at Baarle-Hertog the Belgian town inside a Dutch town. Up until recently, at Dutch closing time, waiters would move lingering customers to new tables on the more liberal Belgian side of the border. I think our Derby Line surveyors would approve!
Got any favourite borders? Let us know below.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.