Key West, Florida 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.
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The History of the Hemingway House
Hemingway found the Bahama Village area house abandoned during a visit and fell in love with it immediately. So his wife Pauline’s uncle purchased it for the couple for $8,000 and Hemingway moved in with her 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.
What to See at the Hemingway House
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 rooms, 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 Spanish Colonial 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. Recently, the home survived a hurricane.
Tips for Visiting the Hemingway House
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 $17 for adults and $7 for children, but you can buy combination tickets with other area attractions as well as the trolley tour through historic Key West. Only cash is currently accepted.
There are also guided tours of the property that last 20-30 minutes. The house hosts weddings along with author experiences that let writers spend time in the home working on a project. After visiting the Hemingway Home, it’s a short walk to the Key West Lighthouse and the Southernmost Point.
Where to Eat Near the Hemingway House
After touring the Hemingway House, grab a meal at one of the nearby restaurants. Moondog Cafe is just around the corner, serving breakfast tacos, burgers, and grilled pizzas. Blue Heaven is one of the most popular places in town and was where Hemingway used to hold boxing matches. You can also grab a pint like Papa at Old Town Tavern and Beer Garden.
Where to Stay Near the Hemingway House
Walk around the corner to the museum from Orchid Key Inn, which is a historic inn with an outdoor pool and daily breakfast. The Kimpton Lighthouse Hotel is behind the hotel and has stylish rooms and daily breakfast. Papa’s Hideaway is a vacation rental that is five minutes away from the museum and has an outdoor pool.
My visit to the Hemingway Home was provided by the Florida Keys Tourism Council, but all opinions are my own.