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Key West, Part 4


Hemmingway's Home Key West has a charm that has attracted many people. One of those was the author of such works as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. Yes, Earnest Hemingway was prompted to visit Key West by fellow writer John Dos Pasos. While staying in Key West, he began writing in the mornings when the weather was coolest and exploring his new surroundings during the afternoons. During this time he completed the novel that he had been working on — A Farewell to Arms.

Soon after arriving, Hemingway was introduced to deep sea fishing which became one of his lifelong passions. In 1931, the wealthy father of Hemingway's wife, Pauline, purchased this home for the couple. Hemingway owned the home until his death in 1961. The home is in a Spanish Colonial style and constructed of native rock hewn from the grounds.

It is now preserved and available for tourists to visit. So I did.


Fountain When you first enter the grounds, you encounter this very interesting and artistic fountain — two dragonflies hovering over tropical leaves — above a basin lined in brightly colored tile.

Entrance The entrance shows the artistic patterns of rectangles and arches repeated in the doors and windows, including the shutters which, pragmatically, also provide protection during tropical hurricanes. The wide overhangs of the roof provided cooling during those days prior to air conditioning. The house is still not air conditioned but numerous fans help keep the air circulating.


PortraitThe portrait of the famous author hangs in the dining room. He looks like he belongs in Key West.


Through the years Another wall displayed a series of photos of Hemingway at various times in his life.

Living Room Here is the living room. Also note the high ceilings — another architectural feature to help keep the house more comfortable — hot air rises to be replaced with cooler (less hot, anyway) air. Note the fans (modern, so I assume not original furnishings).

Dining Room A very impressive dining room makes one think of the interesting conversations that must have taken place here.

Kitchen The kitchen was very modest and has not been updated. The ancient refrigerator (not pictured here) was tiny — almost looked like a toy.

Bedroom The master's bedroom was occupied by one of the famous 6-toed cats. The story goes that Hemingway made the acquaintance of a sea captain who owned an unusual six-toed tomcat. Upon his departure from Key West, the captain presented the cat to Hemingway. Today many of the numerous cats that inhabit the grounds still possess the unusual six toes. And the cats are catered to by the staff.

Bathroom Hemingway's bathroom. Nothing special — just a bathroom.

Veranda However, I loved the veranda that runs around the house on the second level. There are beautiful views from every spot — both within the grounds but also beyond. There is a great view of the lighthouse that is situated just across the street.

Pool We were told that Hemingway's pool was the first one built in Key West. It was built in the late 1930's, costing some $20,000. This price prompted Hemingway to take a penny from his pocket and press it into the wet cement of the surrounding patio and announce jokingly, "Here, take the last penny I've got!" That penny is still there.


Sloppy Joe's Hemingway's friends Charles Thompson, Joe Russell (also known as Sloppy Joe), and Capt. Eddie "Bra" Saunders, together with his old Paris friends became known as the "The Key West Mob". The "Mob" would go fishing to the Dry Tortugas, Bimini, and Cuba for days and weeks at a time in pursuit of giant tuna and marlin. Everyone in the "Mob" had a nickname; this was the time Hemingway became known as "Papa".

Numerous works were based on the people and places he encountered. Hemingway's Key West was a town unlike any place he ever experienced. The town was filled with interesting people from the well-to-do, to the down-on-their-luck fishermen and wreckers. Hemingway used most of these people as characters in his novel "To Have and Have Not" which is about Key West during the depression, and in his succeeding works.

Joe Russell established a speakeasy which later became a legitimate saloon and restaurant. Hemingway was a patron from the very beginning. In 1937, the establishment was moved across the street due to a huge rent increase — from three dollars per month to four. Supposedly, the patrons picked up their own drinks and carried them to the new building. The members of the Key West Mob were among those regulars.

My sister and I had lunch here — the food was good and the atmosphere was wonderful.


Wall One final feature — this one surrounds the grounds of Hemingway's house. The story I was told was that Hemingway grew tired of people approaching his house, invading his privacy. At the same time, the city of Key West was having financial problems and Hemingway offered to buy bricks from the streets. The deal was done — Hemingway had his wall around his grounds and Key West had money to help with their financial problems. The only thing we were not told was how they paved the roads once the bricks were removed. Just a little detail, I guess.

To be continued...

 Life is good.

 Aloha,
 B. David