International boundaries are places of abrupt transition, where a conceptual cartographic line manifests itself in many ways: physically, culturally, linguistically, ideologically, &c. Along the Canada-USA border, it is often no more than a low fence, a shallow canal or a six-metre boundary vista through the trees running along the path of the world’s longest undefended frontier. If a road meets the perimeter in a perpendicular fashion, sans an encounter with a natural obstacle such as a river, it is simply blocked by earthen berms, posts, a guardrail or overgrowth; if it does traverse the International Boundary, only a customs inspection station, one for each country, stand opposite each other at the demarcation.
However, the situation for Derby Line, Vermont, is a bit of an enigma. The site for the village was to be just south of the 45° N Parallel — the agreed boundary — and was incorporated in 1791. Unfortunately the 18th Century surveyors miscalculated and incorrectly drew the border separating Canada from the United States, thus inadvertently placing an American town north of the border! The error was confirmed and settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. For decades, the line dissecting Derby Line — its north of the border neighbourhoods are officially known as Stanstead, Québec — ran nonchalantly through the community, cutting through the street grid and sometimes even buildings. An entire tool-and-die factory is divided in two thanks to the surveyors (the Canadian side closed in 1982 but the American portion remains open). Some homes are situated to where meals prepared in one country are then eaten in the other.
Living in an international paradox affects behaviour in some interesting ways. Two streets cross the line sans any checkpoints: Technically, any time a person crosses the International Boundary, he/she is subject to reporting in person to a port of entry inspection station for the country being entered. This makes traffic on RUE BALL / MAPLE STREET as well as RUE LEE / PELOW HILL fairly light since the drive-through posts on RUE DUFFERIN / MAIN STREET are just a couple of blocks to the West. Pedestrians are also obligated to report as soon as they cross: A game of Catch behind the library would be an international event. No laws would be broken, presuming that each time the ball is caught its recipient marchs to the respective Customs to declare it!
The most prominent building on the line is the Haskell Free Library and Opera House. It was built intentionally straddling the border by American sawmill owner Carlos Haskell for his Canadian wife Martha Stewart-Haskell in 1901 as a gift to the community and a symbol of international harmony. The entrances, one leading into the library and the other for the stairs to the opera house theatre, are both in the United States. There are no restrictions on movement within the building yet its placement on the International Boundary can lead to a few legal and logistical complications. A line embedded in the floor is more than just a novelty; it is required to delineate which portions of the structure and furnishings are covered by the separate Canadian and American insurance policies. Plans for a recent renovation project at HFLOH took three years due to the conflicting construction, fire safety and historic preservation regulations of the two countries: with some of the public restrooms sitting on the divide, plumbers from Memphrémagog and Orléans counties had to be involved to assure the work met their respective building codes; a fire escape is located on the Canadian side but had to be accepted by the US; and if flames ever do erupt in the opera house, American evacuees would have to head immediately to the immigration station up the road.
Following the Attacks of 9/11, the US Border Patrol expressed a desire to close the two uncontrolled streets connecting Derby Line with Stanstead, citing concerns about illegal immigration. In 2007, the Vermont villagers met with their counterparts at a joint session in Québec. Gates were installed at the two unchecked points but foot traffic remains as previously regulated. The only road to officially be centred on the Canada/US line — RUE CANUSA / CANUSA AVENUE — remains open to traffic albeit both ends of the street curve back into Canada. At its west end are the two countries’ custom houses and a solid granite building which once served as the world’s only “international” post office (one postmaster, two counters). The citizens of both townships, many of whom are families dating back generations, see the painted white line through their village as a concern for the US and Canadian authorities: C’mon, this is not Berlin!
Clubs and parks within the area affiliated with TNS, FCN, ACNA and/or AANR:
Club naturiste Loisirs Air-soleil, near the village of l’Avenir PQc, is open from May through September providing a variety of accommodations and recreational facilities for the entire family. Just 1⅓ hours north of Stanstead. 1-819/394-2556
Maple Glen is Vermont’s best kept secret with an in-ground heated pool, hot tub, log cabin clubhouse, seven pull-through RV sites with utilities located near Sheldon Springs VT and a 1½ hour drive from Derby Line. 1-802/933-2274
Coventry Club & Resort is a resort outside Milton VT offering various accommodations and seasonal lots with beautifully landscaped RV and tent sites just two hours away from Derby Line. 1-802/893-7773
La Pommerie is one of the oldest and most renowned centres for les Naturistes du Québec and an enchanting welcome for all families. Chalets, RV sites and dormitories are available. Located in St-Antoine-Abbé PQc, 2½ hours west of Stanstead. 1-450/826-4723