Located on the small Florida island of Key West, the Hemingway house and museum is the most popular tourist attraction on the island. This French Colonial home was the residence of Ernest and Pauline Hemingway during their marriage in the 1930s. After their divorce in 1940, Pauline lived here until her death in 1951. It had remained in Hemingway’s possession until 1961, when he committed suicide. Soon after, his three sons had auctioned off the home for $80,000.
The new owners planned on using the home as their own private residence, but due to public interest they decided on turning it into a museum in 1964. A few years later in 1968, the Hemingway House was declared a U.S. National Landmark.
I had visited this historical home with the intentions to introduce my daughter more into the life of Hemingway. I have always believed that combining ‘seeing’ along with ‘reading/ hearing’ is the greatest way to see the whole picture. Prior to our trip to Florida, we had picked out a book written by Hemingway, ‘Farewell to Arms’, which she read while on the trip. Since our visit to the Hemingway home, she found a love for his work and has been interested in visiting more of his haunts around the world. That is what it is all about!
The interior and some of the furnishings inside Hemingway’s home are typical of the time period and location. I was especially enamored by the tilework in the bathroom and in the home, which I have always appreciated in any interior space. As for the furnishings, not all of it is original since the Hemingway family had taken most of it after Ernest’s death. The new owners did maintain much of the bulkier furnishings, as well as many of Hemingway’s possessions. What you see inside the current home has received criticism over time, as to the authenticity of the home and museum’s furniture.
While living in Key West, Ernest Hemingway wrote several of his most well received work, including “Green Hills of Africa”, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “To Have and Have Not”. His final work, “Islands in the Stream”, was published posthumously in 1970, as the manuscript was discovered in a vault inside the garage.
Within the museum, you will find several of Hemmingway’s personal possessions including his typewriters. I was fascinated by his photos, typewriters and manuscripts. For myself, it was like seeing paintbrushes and canvases that were once used by Picasso or Van Gough.
As mentioned, one of my favorite details of any interior space is the tilework. I was enamored by all the tiling inside the home, that were creative and periodic of the time and location.
The gorgeous bathroom with Art Deco tilework, in a standout black and maize yellow.
Another house feature that I was fond of, was the wrap around veranda on the second floor. I have been to many homes where there was a full veranda on the first floor, but not many on the second. I found it to be an incredible viewing vantage point of he grounds and a lovely way to be part of the outdoors from above.
— The Saltwater Pool and the Penny–
One of the more intriguing features on property is the in-ground saltwater pool, which was considered very luxurious for a Key West residential home during the 1930s. The final cost of construction was $20,000, which was more than double the home’s purchased price. Pauline had it built in 1937, while Ernest was reporting in Spain, and he was quite irate upon his return.
Although it is said that Pauline paid for the pool herself, Ernest became melodramatic about the costly addition. He pulled a penny out of his pocket, threw it and exclaimed, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!”. She kept the penny and had it embedded on the north end of the pool to memorialize his apparent absurdity. Over time, the pool grew on him and Ernest had a wall built around the pool so he could swim in the nude!
— Hemingway House Cats —
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum also famous for the many six-toed cats that live at the property. There are approximately 60 polydactyl (six-toed) cats who roam the grounds and are well taken care of by their veterinarian. All the cats are given routine vaccinations, treatments and health maintenance, so it is very safe to socialize with these sweet felines.
I found the cats to be very likeable and adorable. Polydactyl cats have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes their back feet. This gives them the appearance of wearing mittens because it looks as if they have a thumb on their paw. That is what I loved about them and made them look darling.
The cats not only have the lush outdoors as their playground, they also had the run of the house. Many of the antique furnishings have been corded off or have ‘Keep Off’ signs, which means nothing to these felines. They go where they please and how they please, another reason for me to like them.
The cats have history with this home as Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain when he resided here. There are some cats that live on the museum grounds, who are descendants of that original cat, named Snow White. Since Key West is a small island, it is possible that many of the cats on the island are related.
— The Grounds and Gardens —
The grounds and gardens at the Hemingway House and Museum are what you would expect in this part of the country. It is very humid in Key West, so you will find many tropical palms, flora and greenery. Also, one of my favorite flowers are grown here, gardenias. I love them due their intoxicating scent while blooming.
Strolling through the grounds and the home was an extraordinary experience, and it was if Ernest and Pauline were right there us. If in Key West, you must pay tribute and visit the Hemingway Home and Museum.
For tour and ticketing information, please visit – The Hemingway Home & Museum
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed..– Ernest Hemingway
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