Hemingway’s Key West
The front yard of Hemingway’s house is crawling with cats. They are all named after famous people, mainly writers and actors. Louisa May Alcott, Clark Gable and even Hemingway himself. The light green shutters remind me of key lime pie and a time of simple elegance. The palms glisten in the afternoon sun and the house glows.
The romantic in me tries to imagine this house in all of it’s 1930s glory, ignoring the mass of hazy and wobbly-legged tourists fresh off the cruise ship.
Hemingway’s life interests me more than his novels and I prefer his non-fiction books that read more like his diary. A Moveable Feast is my favorite book about Paris just in that it’s so honest and personal. Not embellishing a city like Paris I’m sure is no easy task.
In most ways I can’t relate to him at all, but I do like how much of realist he was, and that he traveled, and spent a lot of time in nature, even if it was only to hunt and fish (two things I don’t really like).
Hemingway moved to Key West in 1931, attracted by the fishing opportunities, warm climate and unique atmosphere of the island. The home itself was built in the 1850s, but the interior looks as it did when Hemingway and his wife Pauline lived there and is full of their furniture and artwork collections. He stayed until 1940.
But the interior of the house pales in comparison to the gardens, especially if you are a fan of cats (I certainly am). Around 40 six-toed furry friends inhabit the gardens and wander freely through the house. They sleep in flower beds, sneak along roof-tops, and have no fear of strangers.
They are supposedly the descendants of Hemingway’s first and beloved six-toed cat Snowball.
The pool was an added feature, completely planned by Hemingway and built in the late 30s. At the time, a personal pool was quite a luxury and it was the only one within 100 miles.
Today the brick walls that surround Hemingway’s house act as a barrier to nosy strangers, curious tourists, and the belief that at some point Key West wasn’t a tourist trap. It was a place to call home, a place to inspire.
Oh, and don’t forget the cats. They’re important too.
What do you think? Do you like Ernest Hemingway? Have you ever visited his home and six-toed friends in Key West?