Key West, Florida: Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

mile 0 in key westLast week, I went on my third cruise for vacation hoping third times a charm. On the previous two cruises, I experienced rough seas due to hurricanes brewing. I was in luck . . . it was smooth sailing the entire time. My cruise was six days and five nights and cruised to Key West in Florida, and Cozumel in Mexico.

I decided to visit the Hemingway House and Sloppy Joes on my own in Key West. My first stop in Key West was the Hemingway House, which is just under one mile from the port and on the Florida Scenic Highway. I enjoyed walking to the house and being on part of the Florida Scenic Highway. On the way, part of the road was roped off by yellow police tape and police cars & motorcycles. From what I could gather, a bicyclist had been hit by a vehicle as there was a warped bicycle on the ground, and the police were taking photos of it. No cars or people were at the scene, so it appeared that it was in the investigation phase. Approximately a quarter of mile later, I arrived at the Hemingway Home and Museum.

907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040
A tip for those who plan on visiting Hemingway's house . . . they do not accept credit cards for tickets. You must pay in cash, and if you decide to go on the guided tour, gratuities are appreciated by the tour guides. I chose to go on the guided tour because I wanted to hear the history and not just look at the house. The tour did not disappoint, but with that being said, my tour guide was amazing.

As you walk into the house, there are stairs leading to the upstairs and a hallway with a door on the right leading to the great room and a door on the left leading to the dining room. In the back of the hallway is another door on the right leading into the great room and a door on the left leading to the butler's pantry. The tour began by taking the first door on the right as you walked into the house and going into the great room. We learned that the house was built in 1851 by Asa Tift, who was a marine architect. The house was built out of limestone, which came from below the house where he ernest hemingway portraitbuilt a basement. As you may or may not know, basements are not a feature of homes in Florida. After Tift passed away, the house sat empty for many years until 1931 when Ernest Hemingway purchased the home in the amount of $8,000 with his second wife.

From there we went out of the back of the great room, crossed the hallway, and entered the butler's pantry. The kitchen was to the right, and we didn't get to tour it but were able to peek in and see what it looked like. We turned to the left and gathered in the dining room, which had a fireplace with a portrait of Hemingway hung over it. We learn that Hemingway was married a total of four times:  Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn, and Mary Welsh. His second wife was his first wife's best friend. Hadley divorced him when she found out that he was having an affair with Pauline. Hemingway eventually cheated on Pauline too with Martha. They later divorced, and he remained married to Mary until his death in 1961, just a couple weeks before his 62nd birthday. We also learn that when Ernest and Pauline moved into the house, Pauline had the ceiling fans removed and had chandeliers installed, which produced quite a bit of heat.

We moved upstairs and went to the left and into the nanny's bedroom, which had a bathroom to the right and a doorway to the left leading into Patrick and Gregory's shared bedroom. It's in this room where we learned that Hemingway had several concussions . . . nine to be exact. The second one he received from pulling the rope to flush the toilet in this house and ended up pulling it so hard that he pulled down part of the ceiling and got hit in the head. It is said he was to be partaking in drink when this happened. Going into the boys bedroom, we learn that Hemingway's eyesight was too poor to serve in the war, so he volunteered with the Red Cross and was the only civilian to receive a bronze medal for saving a solider's life.
polydactylnot polydactyl

After moving across the hall into the master bedroom, we learned that in 2017, there was a category 5 hurricane that hit Key West. The director of the house and 10 staff members rode out the hurricane in the Hemingway house with all of the 40-50 cats descended from Hemingway's original cat, which just happened to be polydactyl. There was no damage to the house because the house is built out of limestone, which prevents water from entering the house, and the windows are hurricane proof. We went through the door leading out to the porch, around to the front of the house, down the stairs, and over to the pool.

salt water pool
Ernest and Pauline had been discussing putting in a swimming pool but nothing had been done about it. When Ernest left for an extended amount of time, Pauline spent $20,000 of her own money to have the pool installed. It cost so much because the city of Key West would not allow dynamite to be used to blow up the limestone in the ground, so it had to be dug up manually and hauled away. It is the largest pool in Key West and was a salt pool until recently. The pool caused a huge fight between the married couple. Pauline reached into Ernest's pocket, pulled out a penny, and told him she'd spend every last, red cent of his if he wanted to. She proceeded to through the penny on the wet cement surrounding the pool, where the penny remains to this day. In retaliation, Ernest took a urinal from Sloppy Joe's Bar when it was changing locations and had it installed near the pool. Pauline hated it and wanted it removed, but Ernest refused to have it removed until the pool was removed, so she put tiles around it, and at some point, a barrel was added to make it a water fountain for the cats still on the property.

When you turn around, there is a building beside the pool, which served as Hemingway's writing studio, and he had a catwalk going from the second story porch to the second story of his writing studio. Every morning, Ernest would walk across the catwalk to his studio, and this is where he wrote most of his books. At one point, there was a storm that knocked down the catwalk, and that is why it is no longer there.

I hope you enjoyed reading this information as much as I enjoyed hearing about it. This information is what was told to me by the tour guide, so if there are mistakes in the post, I do apologize as I haven't fact checked any of it.

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