A tour of the Hemingway House in Key West

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. “ ~ Ernest Hemingway

On our recent visit to Key West, hubby and I got tired of sitting at the hotel swimming pool, so went for a walk along Duval Street. We had read that Ernest Hemingway’s house and museum wasn’t far away, and when we spotted the lighthouse, knew we must be almost there.


Neither of us had thought to bring the camera, so all photos were taken with our cell phones. The house itself, built in 1851 by Asa Tift a marine architect and salvage wrecker, is just what I would choose if I could have a home in Key West; two storey with shady balconies all round. I would definitely add air conditioning though. It was so hot in there even with a variety of fans blowing in every room.  Hemingway’s wife Pauline had apparently had all the ceiling fans taken down and replaced with chandeliers. Style for her obviously came before comfort!


Hemingway lived here from 1931 to 1939. It was bought on auction for him and his second wife Pauline as a wedding present from her uncle. The story goes that she wanted this particular house because of its location next to lighthouse, which made it easy for her husband to find his way home after drinking the night away with his cohorts at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. In 1939, Hemingway left his wife and two sons, moved away from Key West, and married American journalist Martha Gellhorn,  After the war, Martha found herself displaced in favour of Mary Welsh a war correspondent for Time and Life magazines.


Our guided tour was rather crowded, and I would like to go back out of season and take more time to look at all the exhibits and meet more of the fifty or so six-toed (polydactyl) cats who live there. This orange one was very lively and besides nibbling at the pot plant on the dining table, kept pawing our guide because he knew that she had some tidbits in her pocket.


A feature in the back yard is a urinal which Hemingway rescued from Sloppy Joe’s Saloon during renovations.  He brought it home one night much to his wife’s disapproval, and had it converted it into a water fountain. It gets filled with water from a large Cuban jar, and serves as one of many drinking water sources for the resident cats.


Hemingway was a great fan of boxing, and had his own boxing ring in the back yard, where he would spar with local amateur boxers. In 1937 he decided to build a swimming pool on this site.


This project was an expensive and  laborious feat, as a massive hole had to be dug out of solid coral. It cost $20,000, and was the only pool within 100 miles in the 1930’s. You can read more interesting details about it here.


There is a large green bench near the pool, which I’m tagging for Jude’s August ‘Colourful Bench Challenge‘.


Here are a few scenes from inside the house. Click a photo to see the gallery.

I almost forgot to show you the fountain detail at the front entrance. I read that it was designed by the previous owner Asa Tift to replicate an iron clad warship. I don’t see the resemblance though. Do you?


Hemingway was a prolific writer who in 1954 was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He was a hard living, hard drinking man who lived an extravagantly flamboyant life. He was a bullfighter, a deep-sea fisherman, a great white hunter, a war hero, a rebel and without doubt a fearless and very tough guy. He tragically died at the age of sixty-two at his home in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho at 7am on July 2nd 1961, from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head, the same way his father Clarence had died in 1928.

“Live life to the fullest. It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”  ~ Ernest Hemingway 1899-1961