KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The house and gardens at 907 Whitehead St. are still “home” to one of the United States’ most renowned writers — the late Ernest Hemingway. Now a registered National Historic Landmark, the Spanish colonial villa is open to the public as a museum honoring the island’s most famous literary resident.
Winner of both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, the author lived on the property with his second wife Pauline and their two children from 1931 to December 1939. He owned the home until his death in 1961.
Hemingway wrote many of his best-known works in the second-story writing studio adjoining the house. Among them were “Death in the Afternoon,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Green Hills of Africa,” “The Fifth Column,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “To Have and Have Not,” which is set in Depression-era Key West. Following his death, the unpublished manuscript that was to become “Islands in the Stream” was found in a vault in the property’s garage.
Today, the home’s furnishings and atmosphere evoke the Hemingway era, as if the author were about to return from a fishing trip or a cocktail at his favorite watering hole.
Behind the house is the first swimming pool in Key West. Pauline Hemingway had it built as a surprise for her husband, who was away covering the Spanish Civil War. When he learned that the pool cost $20,000, Hemingway took a penny from his pocket and angrily tossed it to the ground, saying she had spent his last cent. Pauline had the penny imbedded in the cement of the pool, where visitors can see it today.
Guided tours of the Hemingway Home are offered throughout the day. Visitors also can view the author’s writing studio and enjoy the grounds for as long as they like. Many spend time making friends with the multitude of six-toed cats that roam the grounds — descended, so the story goes, from a feline given to Hemingway by a sea captain.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For further information, visit hemingwayhome.com or call 305-294-1136.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
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