Located in Old Town Key West, the Ernest Hemingway House is where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote for more than ten years. It is here that the Nobel Prize winner spent his most prolific years, and is definitely a must-visit for those who want to see the rooms and gardens that inspired some of his most memorable pieces of work.
The house was built in 1851 and became home to Ernest Hemingway, as well as his wife and two sons in 1931. The house was not in good condition when Hemingway moved in and needed a large amount of work, which Hemingway was fully involved in. Much of the original furniture that Hemingway used still remains in the home, including the red leather Cardinal’s chair that was reportedly used during the Broadway production of The Fifth Column, Hemingway’s only full-length play. You will also find Hemingway’s iron-frame bed here, as well as his trusty typewriter in his writing studio.
While Hemingway’s furniture and belongings do draw the crowds, many people come to the Ernest Hemingway House to see the fifty or so cats that reside there. Hemingway was known for his love of six-toed cats, after first being gifted one by a ship captain. The cats that live at the Hemingway House are mostly descendants of Hemingway’s original cats, and have called this place their home for generations.
In addition to visiting Hemingway’s grand house, visitors can also explore the beautifully landscaped gardens that the writer incorporated into his property. The lush gardens are filled with indigenous flowers native to Key West, such as jasmine, water lily, gardenia and hibiscus. The grounds also include a large in-ground swimming pool, which was a huge luxury to have in the 1930s, and was the only pool within a 100-mile radius. Since Key West only had fresh water piped in the 1940s, a pump was installed into the salt water table below the ground, and this took two to three days to fill the pool with salt water, after which it would only stay fresh for a couple of days before needing to be drained and re-filled once again.
For those who are serious Hemingway fans, a guided tour is the best way to explore the museum and the grounds, as you will be able to learn fascinating facts about the writer, his family, and their life in Key West. While a thirty-minute tour is included in the admission price, many people do still choose to explore the property on their own, as this gives the chance to properly take in the beauty of the architecture and grounds, and, of course, plenty of time to play with the cats!
The Ernest Hemingway House and Museum is still the single largest residential property on the island of Key West and remains to be one of Key West’s most popular attractions. 70% of Hemingway’s work was completed in Key West, and, even if you have never read anything that Hemingway has written, there is no denying that the house and grounds have a magical and mystical quality about them, making them well worth a visit.