Meg Visits Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – Key West Florida
Travel Thursday-Late Post
What –The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West Florida
Why-Aside from the fact that this is the #1 tourist destination in Key West, a few reasons why I have always wanted to visit this home.
- Home Of A Literary Legend- It is not every day that I am able to visit the home of an iconic writer and winner of Pulitzer (fiction) and Nobel (Literature) awards. In 1950, the New York Times named Ernest Hemingway as the most important writer since Shakespeare. Certainly, he was a great American writer with a unique writing style, a storyteller of adventure in both novel and short story form. Most of us have heard of him. Many have studied his work in our schooling years. I was traveling with two smart literature buffs. And thanks to my son, this sentence is my mantra. “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
- Curiosity -I’ve always been curious about the Hemingway family and their legacy. Ernest Hemingway was larger than life celebrity. Some say that his life was his greatest story. He lived a life full of adventure, celebrity, and tragedy.
- James Bond Fan-This home was on the set of the James Bond movie “A License To Kill”
- Personal Life-A sad story of one family who fought against what were once called demons, and now known to be partially genetics. I have followed their story throughout the years with interest. Mariel and Margaux Hemingway were people that I rooted for, and remember feeling so saddened when Margaux Hemingway died in 1996. Mariel Hemingway is an advocate for suicide and mental health.
- Architecture-From an architectural standpoint, This quintessential 1851 limestone Spanish Colonial Key home is a National Historic Landmark that is preserved intact.
- Furniture and Décor. I love British Classics with an island vibe. I learned that Ernest Hemingway was actually a collector of Spanish furniture. Thomasville Furniture Company has a line that was inspired by Ernest Hemingway Collection. Either way, it is the collection of a traveled man with some stories.
- Cats-I did not even know that I would want to see these polydactyl cats before my visit but
The Tour-Set in the lush tropical neighborhood of beautifully restored grand and interesting homes, there is a kiosk at the front of the home that sold tickets for the tour. We learned that the tour was cash only. We frantically began to pool our cash together in a scene that must repeat itself every day. Who carries cash?
I asked if there was a pamphlet for a self-tour and there was not. However, there were guides in other languages. Weird. One is welcome to wander through on their own. After my visit, I learned that for an additional $9.99, there is an app available from Apple and Google. This home is privately owned if you get my drift.
While reading up on this home, I have read a few times, that Ernest Hemingway’s built this home to be near the lighthouse so that Ernest could find his way home from his visits to the local bars. The fact is that home was built in 1851 by a marine architect and salvage wrecker.
The literary landmark plaque on the front door reads, “There is not greater friend than a book.” Inside the home, the rooms have many displays of personal items and are arranged by periods of the author’s life. The home is grand and I found it to hold that old school glamor. Hollywood style but with a touch of the Florida Keys.
The interior-A few of the rooms were a great time capsule of the yesteryear.
I especially loved the shutter-clad windows and doors that lead to the porches and bring in light and great views. Fans, tropical trees and light. I couldn’t help to think about how this light conflicted with dark and dreary subjects, and yet I could imagine writing in this yard.
The women and family-I have to admit that I enjoyed reading tabloids of the yesteryear.
I especially loved personal fishing photos and stories of his years serving in war times. Without any judgment, his life story certainly contributed to his life work.
It is a well-known fact that Ernest Hemingway had a really bad relationship with alcohol. We learned that during the time that he lived in this Key West Home, he was disciplined about writing each day beginning at 6 A.M. He had an office above the carriage house, turned museum shop.
I love his hard hitting truth. Some of my favorite quotes came from this contraption and here are a few.
- “Courage is grace under pressure.”
- “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” O.k. then true that Mr. Hemingway.
- “Death is like an old whore in a bar–I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.” I love him.
The Furniture– I feel a bit shallow that I was more interested in the home than the work. I remember when Broyhill Furniture Company came out with a line named after this legendary writer. I loved it. Timeless pieces that serve a purpose and have a story to tell. The story of a man who was a survivor of two plane crashes and wars, a man who lived in Paris, Italy, Africa, Spain, Cuba, Florida, Chicago and Michigan…,a man liked to womanize, hunt, fish. I was so curious about how the un-fluff furniture would look.
“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” -Leonardo Da Vinci.
And this photo brings me to one of the most interesting that I learned about on this visit…The Cats!
Before the tour began, I noticed cats everywhere and something just did not seem quite right with their feet. They even seemed to walk differently.
I quickly did a google on my phone and learned the story. These cats are polydactyl (six-toed) and that they number somewhere around 40-50. All of the cats carry this gene and about half of these cats have this trait. Ernest Hemingway had learned that these cats were thought to bring good luck. We were told that Ernest Hemingway’s son was given a six-toed cat named Snow White by a ship captain and that these cats on the property are descendants of Snow White. It is not a particular breed but a genetic trait.
We learned that running water did not make it’s way to the home until 1944. There are two cisterns on the property.
Not only do these cats have their own veterinarian, they also have a rookery where the unneutered kitties and others being carefully watched are kept. Check this out!
When they go to the great beyond over that rainbow bridge, they even have their own graveyard. the kitties have a place to rest while they are visiting the grave of their ancestors. How zen!
The cats are named after movie stars.
In 2012, there was a lawsuit brought on by a visitor to the home regarding the well-being of these cats. The home and museum lost the suit. Today these furry polydactyls are well cared for. The Pfizer Company donates Revolution/A for flea and tick prevention.
The Pool-There is a pool, so what?
The pool was a big deal in its day. It was the biggest pool within 100 miles and said to be insanely expensive. It was built by wife Pauline Hemingway when Ernest was in the Spanish Civil War. When he returned home and learned of the price he reportedly stated, “Well, you might as well have my last cent.”  I can only imagine the parties held in this setting.
The home is set on a good sized piece of walled and gated property. We learned that many of the plants were brought in much later due to the lack of water during certain times of the year.
It is a setting for many weddings, I am superstitious so….Good luck kids. Or, perhaps all of those cats are the lucky charm.
Who would like this tour?
- History buffs,
- Literary enthusiasts,
- Curiosity seekers,
- Historical home admirers
- And cat lovers. Yes, cat lovers.
- Open Daily from 9 AM – 5 PM 365 days per year
- This 30-minute guided tour is CASH ONLY. I can’t even imagine in this day and age. $13.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.
- You may self-tour the property with paid admission.
- Of course, there is that app for $9.99
- Foreign scripts are available.
- Ride a bike; there is a bike rack on the property. Or use the hop-on-hop-off trolley. Parking is limited.
- Upcoming blog on other highlights and food.
- Ernest Hemingway Information
- It is difficult for me to write this prior to the subject description below. But I watched a YouTube Video about a literary Hemingway Bar Tour Escapade and I may have found it funny-stay safe out there folks. This is one party town. Key West Ernest Hemingway Bar Hop
Something that I learned-Hemochromatosis. HHC
Even as a former practicing Registered Nurse, I was not up to speed on the new research surrounding the disease that afflicted members of the Hemingway family. Although his father, brother and a sister, as well as his granddaughter, died from suicide, Ernest also suffered from alcoholism, broken relationships, injuries, specifically to the head being a contributing factor. What is now known is that he suffered greatly from HHC. Today there are treatments available and genetic testing.
- This is the most common genetic killer in America.
- “How did hemochromatosis kill Hemingway? By causing toxic levels of iron to accumulate in his joints and organs bringing pain, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, loss of libido, and depression. That depression is more than just being unhappy because your body is damaged and your health is failing. That toxic iron accumulation plays its own role in affecting mood and brain function. Sadly, suicide is an all-too-common outcome of undiagnosed hemochromatosis.” 
- Since 1996, this disease is now known to be genetic.
- Ernest Hemingway was diagnosed with this disease just 6 months prior to his untimely death.
- HHC is another curse of the Celts. Found to be higher in populations of Celtic and Irish.
 Wikipedia Ernest Hemingway Home.
 HHC HHC Information