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American Home With Canadian Driveway: Estcourt Station, Maine 📍
Residents can't leave their homes without crossing the border (📍Bonkers Borders Series)
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American Homes With Canadian Driveways:
Estcourt Station, Maine, USA
At the top of Maine – literally, the top – there’s a row of about a dozen American houses that sit on a Canadian street. That sounds weird because it is. People in Estcourt Maine cannot technically exit their driveways without passing it by border patrol.
Estcourt Station is the northernmost point of New England and the Eastern US… we know that now. But for a long time after the US broke from Britain, the Maine-Canada border was ambiguous, and both the US and Canada (which was part of Britain at the time) gave land grants to citizens in parts that the other claimed. Villages existed on both sides and in between. Including Estcourt, which was tucked against the lake right outside the Canadian town of Pohenegamook (did I get that right?).
The US & Canada finally got their act together in 1842 when they signed a treaty that exactly confirmed the Maine border. To resident’s surprise, it turns out that the true border went through their houses, yards, even mailboxes.
One specific row of houses is mostly on American soil, but fronts a street that lies in Canada. That street, now known as rue de la frontier (or border street), provides the only road access to and from these homes. There are no usable roads on the US side – it’s hundreds of miles of dangerous logging tracks that go nowhere.
Regardless, people in Estcourt seemed to carry on and no one really watched too closely. Until 9/11, when both countries became decidedly more vigilant about protecting the border.
That’s had some crazy and unfortunate consequences. In 2002, a Canadian name Michel Jalbert (yes I know the accent is horrible, at least I didn’t say Michael Jalbert right?) drove to the local gas station on the US side to fill up, he was arrested and jailed for illegally crossing the border in what became an international incident. The gas station was barely 100 feet off the Canadian street but on the US side, and border control where he was technically supposed to check in was a few more 100 feet down the road. The story’s a bit more involved bc Michel had a minor prior conviction and a gun in his car, but he ended up spending weeks in jail and can never enter the US again, even if he’s on empty.
After that, things in Estcourt got more tense. Canadian Snow plows refused to clear American driveways, residents would drive on the shoulder of the road to ensure they were in the right country, and neighbors wouldn’t come over for dinner if the border station was closed. The gas station eventually shutdown and most people moved away. Canada border patrol reports that no one lives there permanently anymore, but the 2020 US Census gives it a population of 4.
Apparently most of the houses are Canadian owned now and border agents consider residents in Canada when they’re on their property. Interestingly, homeowners pay pro-rata taxes to both Quebec and Maine, and the houses are one of very few American places that have Canadian area codes. There’s reports that a few Americans still spend summers there. If they do, they can only really go out when the border station is open, that would be weekdays 9-5, closed on weekends, holidays, and Canadian Labor Day. (show hours on US website).
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