With all the talk these days about borders and walls, it’s refreshing to take a look at a peaceful way the small town of Derby Line, Vermont approached their unique situation. Instead of an imposing border crossing between Derby Line, VT and Stanstead, Quebec, these two towns place a row of flower pots to designate the international line.
Check out this video in an article by ABC News that shows the peaceful relationship between these two international neighboring towns. From bowling leagues to love stories, this video shows a story which demonstrates that borders don’t necessarily define relationships.
Neighboring towns of Derby Line, VT and Stanstead, Quebec.
Much of the international border dividing the United States and Canada is, for the most part, a straight line across the 49th parallel. When the surveyors were in the Northeast it is thought that they intended to follow the 45th parallel but mistakenly marked the line too far north. Two neighboring towns on either side of the border are Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec.
Haskell Free Library and Opera House
An excellent example of the long standing friendship between these towns is the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which was intentionally built on the border. Construction began in 1901, and the Opera House opened in 1904 and the Library in 1905. In the 1970s, both the United States and Canada declared it a national heritage building.
Built for all.
In the late 1800s, Carlos Haskell, an American, met Martha Stewart, who had grown up on the Canadian side of the border. After they married and settled in Derby Line, the Haskells decided to honor the border by building a library and opera house directly on it so that Americans and Canadians would both be able to use it.
Read a book while in two countries.
The border passes diagonally through the Haskell Free Library and Opera House. Today, the library has two different entrances - one from each country – as well as two different addresses. Its American address is 93 Caswell Avenue, while its Canadian address is 1, rue Church. There is a line marking the border on the floor, but it wasn’t put there for novelty. Insurance companies requested the line so they would pay only for damages to their part of the building.
More than just crossing the road.
After 9/11, border patrols have become more and more strict, and it’s not just the motor vehicles that are affected. Pedestrians on the sidewalk are also technically required to report as soon as they cross the line. Visiting someone on the other side of the line, even if the building is next door, means walking around to the inspection station first, or risking being an outlaw.
Sometimes it's best to take the long way home.
There are two streets in Derby Line and Stanstead which cross the international line without any checkpoints. The tricky part about this is that any time a person crosses the line, they are subject to report in person, to a port of entry inspection station. These days the traffic on Maple Street/Rue Ball and Pelow Hill/Rue Lee is much lighter, as it’s more convenient to drive through an established checkpoint on another street.
A not so simple game of catch.
Another example of the tricky nature of the low key border would be a simple game of catch, because playing catch over the border would be an international event. While it wouldn’t be breaking any laws to play, technically each time the ball was caught, the catcher would have to go over to customs to declare the ball.
A street divided.
Perhaps the most famous road in these border towns is the aptly named Canusa Avenue. While the street itself is in Canada, the houses south of it are in the United States. This means that whenever Canusa Ave's American residents pull out of their driveways, they have left the United States and must report to a border post. Luckily, there is one of each national variety at the corner.
Making borders beautiful.
Some may think that this crackdown on border crossings would put a divide between the small Vermont town of Derby Line and the Canadian town of Stanstead. These neighbors may not like the new wall, even if it’s made of flower pots, but they will always consider each other friends.
Vermonters certainly know how to live peacefully. Share with others who would want to live like this, and be sure to like this post if you appreciate the neighborly peace found in Derby Line!