Hemingway, Key West
The cats that live in the home and on the grounds are descendants of the cats he kept while he lived in the house, including many extra-toed (polydactyls) cats. It looks like they are wearing little mittens.
Key West and Ernest Hemingway are inseparable. Papa Hemingway's years in town were among his most productive, from a literary standpoint, and his contribution to the attitude and nightlife of the town continues to this very day. Why, even his "cat water fountain" is an antique urinal ripped from the original Sloppy Joes' Bar location in the late thirties.
The house is privately owned, and lovingly maintained. It's so authentic as to still be devoid of air-conditioning. Now, I wouldn't describe the interior as super-comfortable on the hot June day we visited, but the construction of the house, its ceiling fans and the large ceiling to floor windows, make tropical ventilation happen.
Like almost everything in Key West, it costs $10 to get in. Guided tours, once inside, are free...you just congregate at the entrance for the next one to start. You'll be treated to a 30 minute walk through both the house and history. I was especially moved to visit Hemingway's writing cottage out back, left as he'd left it when he departed the area. Seeing Ernest Hemingway's typewriter made me appreciate my quiet-key computer keyboard and nifty laptop even more. :)
Hey, one other fun fact about Hemingway's house...it's the only dwelling in Key West with a basement. Papa was smart enough to buy the highest ground (elevation about 10 feet) in town, and he bought land that had a big chunk of stone below the surface. So, the basement was literally carved out of this stone, which is why it doesn't seep water like most places in Florida would do. Also, during hurricanes, the famous Hemingway cats instinctively hide in the basement, which is usually a safe place to be.
We loved the stories of Papa Hemingway and all his wives, too. And yes, we saw his cats, including a bunch of the famous six-toed mutants. Definitely worth the visit, folks.
After many years of visiting the Keys I finally visited the Hemingway House and even took the guided tour. The reason I never did before is I thought of it as too touristy and assumed I'd be disappointed, shame on me for being so negative. I actually found the house interesting and the tour a fine way to spend 30-45 minutes. We had a great tour guide, he was very knowledgeable, friendly, joked a bit, and kept up a good pace - I was never bored and/or aching for the tour to move on. We almost didn't take the guided tour because it was HOT and we were HUNGOVER but I'm glad we did, I know it made all the difference in our visit. I definitely recommend it.
The house is a really cool place to visit. It costs $10 for entry fee. I enjoyed walking around outside the best in his garden with the cats. Also, the house in the back, which is where he wrote is really neat. They have it where you can only see inside, but not go in. Definitely worth the money. The 2nd picture is of the house with his library, which is out back. The 6-toed cats are everywhere.
I'm not sure this belongs in a Must See category, but it certainly isn't off the beaten path either.
This is another place that we didn't go back to yet (since the 60s) mostly because of the cost. Tours take 45 minutes, and they cost $10 for adults and $6 for children in 2003. If I were to go back, one of the primary attractions would be the six-toed cats (decendants of Hemingway's original cats) that live there.
In 1851, Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker built the house. It was bought for Pauline and Ernest Hemingway by Pauline's rich uncle Gus in 1931. Pauline was Ernest's 2nd wife. When she divorced him in 1939, Hemingway moved to Cuba. Pauline died in 1951. Only Patrick, one of her two sons is still living.
The house has the first pool in Key West - it cost $20,000 in the late 30s. Hemingway also built the brick wall around the house in an effort to get some privacy from the crowds of tourists peering in through the fence. (see last picture). Hemingway still complained that the lighthouse keeper had a view into his bedroom. That is partly true - there is a picture I took from the top of the lighthouse that shows the upstairs balcony.
Hemingway had a lot of friends in Key West, and many of them appeared as characters in his novel "To Have and Have Not" which is about Key West during the depression.
This picture was done by one of his friends - Mario Sanchez. The figure in the middle that is twice the size of anyone else is Hemingway. The clouds depict three of his novels - The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls
On my first visit to Key West I was very excited to visit the Hemingway house. I grew up a very large fan of Hemingways works and setting foot in the house where he penned some of his greatest novels was a personal thrill for me. There is a charge to tour the house, and, it is true, there are six toed cats running around, direct feline descendants of Hemingways own pets.
Ernest Hemingway is a famous American writer who lived much of his life as a recluse. Like many of those who make the Keys their reference, Hemingway sought refuge in the tiny islands where he lived for over 10 years with all of his cats. Many of Hemingway's novels are about the people he met while living on Key West.
It is said that the cats that currently live on the property are the descendants of Heminway's cats. Legend has it that Hemingway was presented with a gift of a 6 toed cat. Many of the cats found at the house have 6 toes. I'm not sure how many people find the idea of a 6 toed cat fascinating, but many people visit Hemingway's house just to see the cats.
Hemingway's house is now a museum. Tours are offered daily, for a fee.
Hemmingway's home was an experience in and of itself! What an eccentric person! The place is bustling with cats...almost all of which have six toes! I think that there were about 30 or more of them all together...cats, not toes.
There was definitely a sort of reverence that you felt being there, in the same room where such incredible works of fiction were created.
It's a cool place, I'd definitely suggest checking it out!
I honestly wonder if this place is over-rated. You can pretty much see everything outside. A lot of people will just take a picture outside the house beside the sign that says "Ernest Hemmingway Residence"
The admission fee is $10 for adults.
The grounds of the Hemingway Home are also home to about 60 cats which are said to be descendents of Hemingway's cats.
Many of the cats have 6 toes, which is due to inbreeding. The cats are cared for by the caretakers of the museum.
One interesting piece of history at the home is the cat drinking fountain, which was actually a urinal from Sloppy Joe's Bar. Hemingway's wife tried to disguise it with tile.
The swimming pool at the Hemingway Home was the first residential pool built in Key West and is also the largest. It is 65 ft long and the deep end is 9 ft deep. It is filled with saltwater.
The final cost of the pool was $20,000. When Hemingway learned of the cost, he laughed, took a penny out of his pocket and said "Well, you might as well take my last cent." He then threw the penny in the wet concrete near the pool where it can be seen today.
The writing studio used by Hemingway is on the 2nd floor of a building outside the house that was used as a carriage house. The room is exactly the way he had it arranged.
A stairway leads to the room, but this was only built for tourists to access it. It was originally accessed by a catwalk from a cookhouse building which blew down in a 1948 storm.
The bedroom contains a large bed which is actually 2 twin beds put together. You will also see a replica of a cat made by Pablo Picasso that was given to Hemingway. The original was broken by a thief.
Also in the house you will see the dining room, which contains an 18th century Spanish walnut dining table, a chandelier made in Venice, and a Spanish bottle safe which has a great story behind it. There are also bathrooms and a kitchen.
The great writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) made his home in Key West and owned this home from 1931 until his death in 1961. He only lived there full time until 1939, when he divorced and moved to Cuba. Some of his greatest novels were written at the house, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
The house was built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a wrecker. It contains furniture and artifacts used by Hemingway and his family, and some paintings and photographs.
Hours are 9am-5pm daily. Admission is charged. Guided tours are available. Visiting the home is well worth the price of admission.
See my other tips for more specific info.
You have to visit the former house of Ernest Hemmingway. The Hemingway House is the only house in Key West with a basement and the first house on the island to get a swimming pool (Hemingway was outraged at what the pool ended up costing). You can take a tour, which is very nice. Definitely take the guided tour, the guide will tell you great story's and offer insights and anecdotes into the Hemingway’s, the house and the town. The furnishings and his writing space are much as they were when he lived there. It's a beautiful place to spend a few hours. If you are a cat lover, than this is paradise for you, there are so many cats walking around the house, that I lost counting. They all are descendents of his original cats. Look even closer and you'll see that the rampant inbreeding has left many of them with strange deformities like "6" toes per paw and stubby tails.