If you’re a history buff, a fan of the author or just a curious traveller like me, don’t miss The Ernest Hemingway House at Key West. Situated in the Old Town area of Key West, which is also known as the Historic District (more on this in a separate post), this place was the home of the famous American author, Ernest Hemingway, for ten years.
Hemingway’s Move To Key West
In April 1928, Ernest Hemingway moved to Key West, after his stint in Paris. He was accompanied by the second of his four wives, Pauline Pfeiffer. His habit was to write in the early mornings and explore the surroundings in the afternoons. Within the first few weeks at Key West, he completed his somewhat autobiographical work, “A Farewell To Arms”. Pauline and Ernest soon fell in love with the quaint town of Key West. After spending two seasons there, Pauline’s uncle bought this house for them in 1931.
Hemingway Home & Museum Tours
Guided tours are available at regular intervals. Experienced tour guides conduct these tours for free. However, there is an entry fee of $14 for adults and $6 for children between 6 and 12 years. If you’re travelling in a group of 12 or more adults, then the ticket cost per person is $11.30 for adults. You can purchase them with cash only. You can buy them at the entrance and no prior booking is needed. Tipping the tour guides is of course, customary.
The house is magnificent. It was built in the Spanish Colonial style in 1851. When you take a tour of the house, you will still be able to view a lot of the furniture and bric-a-brac that the Hemingways had used after remodeling of the house. Most of the furnishings including the impressive chandeliers are European. The Hemingways had collected them during their stay in the continent.
A very interesting and unique link to the Hemingway era is embodied in the multiple descendants of Hemingway’s cats in the house! An acquaintance of Hemingway, a sea-captain, had gifted him a six-toed tomcat. You can see him in some of the old pictures that are on display at the house. Today, there are about 40 odd cats in the house, strolling about nonchalantly, all of whom have descended from Hemingway’s cat. Some of them even possess six toes! Word of caution: If you’re allergic to cats, please do not visit the place as these guys are practically everywhere.
The Swimming Pool
A unique feature of this house is the swimming pool. This swimming pool was the first one ever to be built at Key West. It cost the author his last cent, upon the whim of his second wife Pauline. This was a price for his ongoing affair with Martha Gellhorn, soon to be his third wife. The city had turned down their request of using dynamite to excavate the pool. So the entire work was done manually by workers using picks and sledge hammers. It took a year and a half to be completed and was the talk of the town in those days.
Apart from his literary work, the author took a keen interest in hunting and fishing. You can see photos of some of his African Safaris on display at the house. You can also take a tour of the studio where Hemingway has created some of his most famous works.
The tour guides will take you through his complete life history while walking you through the house and gardens and even share some interesting anecdotes. Overall it is a delightful experience that takes you back in time and even if you might have taken the tour before, the house leaves such a lasting impression, that you will make it a point to visit again, each time that you’re in Key West.