The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida

On Saturday I had the privilege of visiting the Hemingway House along with Steve, Tom, and Nicole, as part of our long weekend in Key West, Florida. During the winter I had read The Paris Wife, Paula McLain's wonderful novelized version of Hadley Richardson Hemingway (wife #1) and her husband Ernest during their marriage and years in Paris. Intrigued, I then read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, his memoir of their years in Paris. Next, Tom and Nicole invited us to go to Key West with them! Always amazing the way things work out!

The beautiful Hemingway Home, one of the largest residential properties in Key West.

This was my first trip to Key West and I totally fell in love with it. You can't resist Mallory Square, Duval Street, the shops and restaurants and bars, the mix of languages and accents in the air, the glistening turquoise water and the sunshine, the smells of food escaping from open-air restaurants, and the salute to the sun every evening. I guess Hemingway couldn't, either.

He arrived there in 1928 on a boat from Cuba to pick up an automobile he was purchasing from the Ford dealership. Delivery of the car was late, and Hemingway was forced to stay long enough for the place to work its magic on him. The house at 907 Whitehead Street soon became his home - purchased for the back taxes due - and remained so through 1939. Hemingway's wife Pauline Pfeiffer (wife #2) and their two sons, Patrick and Gregory, continued to live there until 1951, when Pauline died. After Hemingway's death in 1961, the home was purchased for $80,000 by Bernice Dixon, owner of a Key West jewelry store. She lived in the main house for a few years and then humbly retired to the guest quarters, opening the main house as a museum. Bernice died about 1990, and her surviving family continue to operate the house and museum. Currently, an adult admission ticket costs $13.

The house is a Spanish Colonial with a lovely swimming pool, said to be the first pool in Key West. Asa Tift, a sea captain, had had the house constructed around 1850, most likely by his 14 slaves. 

Construction of the pool was supervised by Hemingway's wife, Pauline, while he was away covering the Spanish Civil War. Photo by Steve Rensberry.
Hemingway's years in Key West are generally considered to be some of his most prolific. One of his works produced during this period, To Have and Have Not, was his only novel set in the United States. The author had a second-floor studio in the guest quarters building adjacent to the main house. The studio is open for visitors to view, while the first floor of the auxiliary building serves as a gift shop.

Hemingway's writing studio above the gift shop, formerly the guest quarters. Photo by Steve Rensberry.

Tourists can take a guided, narrated tour, or just wander. We started out with the tour but ended up wandering. Furniture, art, and accessories owned and used by the Hemingway family remain in the house. The grounds are lovely and are inhabited by dozens of polydactyl cats - some actually six-toed and some merely carrying the gene. Some are said to be descended from Snowball, Hemingway's cat gifted to him from a sea captain. 

One of the six-toed kitties residing on the premises. There are special kitty houses built behind the gift shop, but you will see cats on bookshelves, behind plants, and just about everywhere!
 If you'd like more details about the home and museum, check out their website at Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum


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