One of our favorite vacation spots is Key West. I started going the year after I graduated college—won’t go into detail about that trip—and have gone every few years since. And every time we go, Husband and I, we venture off Duval Street, walk a few blocks to 907 Whitehead Street and tour the Hemingway house.
The house was built in 1851 and purchased by Hemingway in the early thirties. He owned it until his death in 1961, at which time it was sold and ultimately declared a national landmark. Today, it is operated as a museum.
Many of the furnishings that Hemingway and his wife, Pauline, brought to the home from Paris are on display. Pauline’s chandelier collection still hangs throughout the house. Hemingway’s favorite art of the time hangs in the living room. A penny that Hemingway pressed into wet cement along side his newly built swimming pool, the first residential pool in Key West, is still visible. And descendants of his famed six-toed cats still roam the grounds. And then, of course, there is Hemingway’s studio—the second story of the carriage house. His books still line the shelves and his Royal typewriter sits at a small table, his Cuban cigar-maker’s chair slightly ajar as if he just stepped away.
While living in this house, Hemingway wrote several of his famous works. He preferred to write in the mornings, 300 words a day I once read, and walked to Sloppy Joe’s in the afternoons—the real Sloppy Joe’s, not the chain that popped up in more recent years. He took up big game sport fishing during this time, and in 1939, after he and Pauline divorced, he moved to Cuba, and Key West became his overnight retreat.
I’ve traveled many miles to visit this house over the years. Now that I live in Florida, it’s not such a long trip, but when I still lived in Kansas City, the journey required a plane ticket and a rental car. So imagine my surprise when I recently posted on facebook that I was re-reading The Sun Also Rises and a friend responded with the address of Hemingway’s in-law’s house in Kansas City—a house in which Hemingway apparently lived during his time working at the Kansas City Star. I mapquested the address immediately. It is approximately 1.5 miles from the house I lived in while in Kansas City. I’ll be driving by when in town later this summer. Another reminder that the world is a very small place, in deed.
You will find more information about the Hemingway house in Key West at www.Hemingwayhome.com. While visiting the website, be sure to check out the Live Cat Webcam broadcasting from the grounds. I find it oddly soothing.