The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is a must see. Located at 907 Whitehead Street, it’s across from the Lighthouse and just down the street from the Southernmost point. Ernest Hemingway is such a part of Key West history that you must see his home. The simple fact that his wife found ceiling fans gaudy and removed them all; just gives you an idea of what you will see. The 6 toed cats are famous, if not more famous than Hemingway. They are all over the house and grounds and are very friendly; just remember, don’t pick them up!
The house was originally built in the 1870’s by Asa Tift. The house was given to Ernest and his second wife, Pauline, in 1931 by her uncle, Gus Pfeiffer. He only paid $8,000 for the house since it was in very bad condition. Also, it was during the depths of the Great Depression and the house was in foreclosure.
The Hemingway’s raised their sons, Patrick and Gregory, in the house. Hemingway lived and worked in the house until the late 1940’s when he and Pauline divorced. She continued to live in the house until her death in 1951. Hemingway had continued to own the house and sold it in 1961 to Bernice Dickson; who opened it as a museum in 1964.
The home is made of native limestone blocks. It’s constructed as a square box with a flat roof, but with many different design elements, it is a one of a kind. The cast iron pillars, verandas, and balusters are French Colonial style; which was brought back from New Orleans by Mr. Tift. The full length two-paned glazed arched windows are Italianate. A cat walk connects Hemingway’s studio to the main house.
Highly recommend the tour. All of the tour guides tell the great story of the house, Hemingway, and the cats. The story of the pool and the cat trough is worth the price of admission. They like you to ask a lot of questions so don’t be shy. Ask why Hemingway liked the house based on the light house was right across the street. The architecture of the home and the gardens that surround the home are worth seeing.
Bring your camera and take lots of pictures. If you are familiar with Hemingway, take note of his studio. This is where he wrote many of his books including “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. If you were forced to read this in high school, then it will certainly give you a new appreciation for Hemingway and his work. If you are a Hemingway fan, you have to check out the displays of Hemingway’s stuff across town. i.e.; Sloppy Joe’s Bar for one.