Ernest Hemingway house and museum

I’ve been to Key West several times, but for some inexplicable reason 1, I never visited the Hemingway House (or the Truman Little White House 2 for that matter but that’s a topic for a different post).

As expected, it was about 1,000 degrees there (Celsius or Fahrenheit, you pick – either way, that’s way too hot). Welcome to Florida in July. 😀 We would have melted completely but fortunately, the house was air conditioned and they had some fans outside.

I really wanted to see a few of the polydactyl cats 3 who live there and sure enough, there are plenty roaming around the place – and by “roaming”, I mean laying around sleeping as cats do. Cats normally have 4 toes on their back feet and 5 on the front but these polydactyl cats mostly have 5 on the back and 6 on the front, thanks to a genetic mutation. Their front paws are noticeably larger and look like they have mittens on.

In addition to extra toes, they also have cat condos, complete with shutters on the windows for decorative purposes to match the main house and there are tiny cat houses scattered around the property for shelter and privacy. And if that’s not enough, they have free reign over the main house too and clearly don’t read the signs that say not to sit or lay on the furniture. These cats have a good deal.

Cats being cats and ignoring the sign to stay off Hem’s bed
Cat prints preserved in concrete
Humphrey Bogart – one of the 53 current cat-residents, though he is not polydactyl

Hemingway bought this enormous home sitting on prime real estate for a whopping $8,000 back in the early 1930s in the middle of the Great Depression. At 16 feet above sea level, it sits on the second-highest point on the island and was the first house to have indoor plumbing and a swimming pool.

Today, it serves as a historical site, tourist attraction, and most ironically, a wedding venue. It’s a gorgeous piece of property but I’m not sure that getting married at the home of a serial philanderer who had 4 marriages and 3 divorces is exactly a good omen.

Throughout the house are bits and pieces of the history that Hemingway lived though (and he lived through many interesting times), movie posters, and other references to his work.

He had a space over the old carriage house converted into a private office, accessible only by a walkway from his bedroom and it was here that he wrote the majority of his most well-known works. Today, visitors can only peek through a gate at the doorway to the office, but as expected, the cats observe no such limits. If you look closely at one of the sets of bookshelves, you’ll see a cat lounging there amongst Hem’s books and tchotchkes.

Hemingway’s writing desk where many of his novels came to life


Cat on a shelf
The side of the house overlooking a large yard
Me and my sweetie at the front of the house.

When you’re done at the house, head down the street and grab a drink at Sloppy Joe’s. Just like Hemingway.  4

  1. OK, it isn’t really all that inexplicable. Most of the other times I was in Key West, I was in party mode, so I skipped the Hemingway House and went to Sloppy Joe’s and Margaritaville instead. Ah, youth and shifting priorities. 
  2. The Little White House is well-worth a visit – I recommend taking the guided tour. Very informative. I learned a lot about the history of the property as well as the many historic decisions and events that took place in this home. 
  3. Not to be confused with pterodactyl cats, as I almost said at one point although the mental image of a pterodactyl cat was well-worth almost using a comically wrong word. 
  4. Technically speaking, not quite just like Hemingway since the location of the original Sloppy Joe’s was a few doors down and around the corner where Captain Tony’s Saloon now sits. Details, shmetails. 

Tell us what's on your mind!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s