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Florida Guide > Other Florida

Ernest Hemmingway's House and Museum, Key West

If you have time to visit Key West you will find that there are many attractions to see. One of our favourites is Ernest Hemmingway’s house and museum, which provides a fascinating insight into how the man lived.

Hemmingway was already a well-known Nobel prize-winning author when he came to Key West, in the late twenties, and his beautiful and spacious white mansion is well worth a visit, if only to see where he wrote some of his most famous novels. It was in this house that Hemmingway penned ‘Death in the Afternoon’, ‘Green Hills of Africa’, ‘To Have and Have Not’, the very famous ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, as well as short stories such as ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro.’ Hemmingway fell in love with Key West, calling it ‘a paradise’, and his daily routine included writing and fishing with bouts of heavy drinking in between.

Sadly, he committed suicide in 1961, but the house remains as a memorial to his talent. It was built in 1851 by the famous marine architect and salvage wrecker, Asa Tift, and the house still contains original furniture used by Hemmingway and his family. One of his wives (he had four!), Pauline, had a collection of chandeliers in the house, and these can still be viewed. It was Pauline’s wealthy Uncle Gus who purchased the house for them to live in. She was the mother of two of his sons, Patrick and Gregory, who were brought up in the house, and she lived in the house after they were divorced, until her death in 1951. Following their divorce, Hemmingway left Key West to live in Cuba, where he married again, but he often visited the house he so loved.

You can still see the rooms complete with the furniture that they used daily, some of which Pauline had shipped from Paris. For those who enjoy the novels of Hemmingway, or ‘Papa’ as he was known, it is fascinating to see the building where he had his studio. Originally the carriage house, he built his writing studio on the second floor, and his Royal typewriter, Cuban cigar-maker’s chair, and mementoes which he collected, can be seen, just as they would have been when he used to get up early, when the temperatures were lower, and walk across to start his day of writing.

At one time the house boasted the first private pool in Key West, which was built in the late thirties, and cost the princely sum of $20,000, an enormous amount of money in those days. It was 65 ft long, and 9 ft deep at one end.

As well as numerous artifacts, you will see the famous six toed cats, the first of which was given Hemmingway by a sea captain, and which have bred and multiplied ever since. As you walk round the lush gardens you will see these cats dozing in the sun, and they now number over sixty.

The house can be found on Whitehead Street, and entrance is $10 for adults and $6 for children. It is open every day of the year, and the tour takes about 30-45 minutes. You can wander about the gardens for as long as you like, and they are very beautiful.

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Page added on: 5 July 2006
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