Key West is an island that has been home to famous politicians, celebrities and writers over the years, but none has left more of a lasting legacy on the area than Ernest Hemingway, who made his home here in the 1930s. Hemingway found the house abandoned during a visit and fell in love with the house, so he purchased it for $8,000 and moved in with his wife Pauline and children Patrick and Gregory.
Hemingway lived here until he left for Cuba in 1940 and came back and forth until his death in 1961. Following his death, Pauline remained in the house until her death, when the house was purchased by local Bernice Dixon. She created the museum in 1968, which it remains today. Much of the house has been recreated to how it would have appeared during Hemingway’s residence and much of the furniture is original.
Throughout the house, you can see touches of what made this man who he was, including movie posters for his novels that became film classics. His design aesthetic was influenced by his travels through Spain, Africa, and Cuba, as you will see in some of his more bizarre pieces.
The house has many unique stories and legends surrounding it. The swimming pool in the backyard reportedly cost $20,000, prompting Hemingway to press a penny into the wet cement and say, “Here, take the last penny I’ve got!” There’s also the polydactyl cats that Hemingway made his pets, naming them after famous actors, who still live on the property. He even made them a drinking fountain from an old urinal from the nearby Sloppy Joe’s bar.
The most fascinating room to visit is Hemingway’s writing space, decorated with animal heads and mounted fish from his famous fishing trips in Cuba and hunting trips in Africa. It also displays shelves of books that influenced him and the typewriter he used to construct his classic novels.
If You Go
The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is located at 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida 33040. The house is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $14 for adults and $6 for children, but you can buy combination tickets with other area attractions as well as the trolley tour through historic Key West.
My visit to the Hemingway Home was provided by the Florida Keys Tourism Council, but all opinions are my own.