Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Visit to Hemingway's House, a Key West Treasure


Key West has been a favorite destination for my family for many years. We recently spent a week there with some close friends and family.

We have favorite restaurants, places to revisit, fishing, and of course, the Duval Street crawl,  but making a pilgrimage to Papa Hemingway's house is something we never miss.

Especially interesting are the furnishings throughout the house, including
furniture, artwork and books that belonged to the Hemingway family.
Hemingway purchased the property in 1931 for $8,000 in back taxes 
from the City of Key West.

Hemingway's office is my favorite part of the tour. I  think of him as larger than life and I'm always surprised and humbled by the simplicity of this room.  

You can almost hear the old typewriter keys clicking away and feel the warm ocean breeze sifting through the open windows. It's not a particularly masculine room, although there are several animal trophies on the walls.  

One of the features I especially like is the in-ground swimming pool, an extraordinary luxury for
a  home in the 1930s in Key West. Even though building a pool was originally his idea, Hemingway's travels as a war correspondent took him away and the management of  the construction became the responsibility of his third wife, Pauline.

The final cost of construction was $20,000. The skyrocketing cost involved the grueling labor of digging through solid coral for the 24 feet wide and 60 feet long hole. The Hemingway pool—the only one within 100 miles in the 1930s—was truly an architectural feat-albeit a costly one.

When Hemingway returned home and discovered the outrageous cost of the pool, he said something to his wife like, "you've spent all but my last cent, so you might as well have that, too," tossing the penny to the ground. Today, under a piece of plexi-glass, there is a penny on the cement close to the pool that Hemingway supposedly dropped there.

Hemingway's infamous extra toed cats still roam the home and grounds at will lounging in the shade, on porches and on top of the soft drink machine like this one, more than willing to pose for the occasional photographer.

The house is comfortable with little ostentation. It has a lived in feeling, that coupled with the books, artwork and mementos, seems very much his home. It appears nothing has changed since he left for Cuba and yet, you might experience  a fleeting hope old Papa might return at any moment.

Everyone probably remembers their first brush with Hemingway. Mine was as a freshman in high school, when I fell in love with The Sun Also Rises. I knew one day I would become a temporary ex-patriot, writing on my laptop at a French cafe' sipping wine and writing the great American romance. I've been to Paris; sipped wine in several cafe's but the only writing I did was postcards to friends at home. If you need a Hemingway "fix," Key West is a bargain!

For more information on Hemingway's home in Key West, visit:

More on Key West next week.

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