About the Hemingway Museum in Key West: A Cultural Heritage Spotlight


Nestled in the heart of Key West, Florida, the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum stands as a tribute to the literary giant’s profound legacy. Ernest Hemingway, one of the most acclaimed American authors of the 20th century, made this Spanish colonial-style house his residence through the 1930s, a period marked by prolific writing and the creation of some of his most notable works. The home, now a museum, provides visitors a window into Hemingway’s life and writings, the very walls echoing with the history of his storied career.

This house-turned-museum at 907 Whitehead Street, which once brimmed with Hemingway’s creative spirit, now opens its doors daily to the public, offering guided tours and a glimpse into the author’s Key West lifestyle. Within these walls, Hemingway penned literary classics such as “A Farewell to Arms” and “To Have and Have Not,” the latter inspired by the surroundings of the Depression-era Florida Keys. The lush grounds, the preserved living quarters, and the intimate access to Hemingway’s personal artifacts all combine to celebrate the author’s enduring influence on literature and American culture.

The Hemingway Home & Museum is also known for its sizeable population of polydactyl cats, descendants of Hemingway’s own feline companions, that roam the property freely, adding a living continuity to the legacy left behind. As a designated U.S. National Historic Landmark, the museum not only showcases the life and times of Hemingway but also stands as an emblem of Key West’s rich cultural tapestry, attracting visitors from around the globe keen on capturing a piece of literary history.

Ernest Hemingway’s Legacy

Ernest Hemingway’s influence extends far beyond his published works, with his former home in Key West, Florida, serving as a museum that immortalizes his contribution to literature and provides insight into his personal life.

Life of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was a Nobel Prize-winning author known for his concise writing style and profound influence on 20th-century fiction. His adventurous and robust lifestyle was a source of inspiration for his novels.

Hemingway’s Influence on Literature

Hemingway’s literary contributions included a distinctive style characterized by understated dialogue and a focus on stoic, masculine characters. His contributions to literature include classics like A Farewell to ArmsFor Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

The Hemingway Home as a Museum

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum located at 907 Whitehead Street allows visitors to explore Hemingway’s residence from 1931 to 1939. This home-turned-museum displays Hemingway’s personal belongings and the environment where he wrote several notable works.

Pauline Pfeiffer and Hemingway’s Life in Key West

Pauline Pfeiffer, Hemingway’s second wife, played a significant role in his life during their time in Key West. Their marriage marked a period of prolific writing which included works like To Have and Have Not set in Key West.

Hemingway in Key West

Key West, Florida, offered Hemingway a retreat where he penned notable manuscripts. His time here included frequent visits to Sloppy Joe’s, a local bar, and his experiences in the Florida Keys and Cuba influenced many of his novels.

Visiting the Hemingway Home

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is a national historic landmark where one can explore the life and work of the famous author. This section guides you through tours, operating hours, ticket details, shopping options, and events including weddings.

Tours and Sightseeing

  • Guided Tour: The museum offers guided tours every fifteen minutes starting at 9:20am, with the last tour at 4:40pm.
  • Self-Exploration: Guests have the freedom to walk the grounds once occupied by Hemingway himself.

Operating Hours and Accessibility

  • Hours: Open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, including weekends and holidays to accommodate visitors.
  • Accessibility: The site is easily accessible for all due to its central location at 907 Whitehead Street, next to the Key West Lighthouse.

Ticket Information

  • Pricing:
    • Adults: $16
    • Children ages 6-12: $6
    • Children 5 and under: Free
  • Payments: The museum accepts both cash and credit cards and recommends purchasing tickets at the gate.

Museum Shops and Souvenirs

  • Gift Shop: A variety of Hemingway-themed souvenirs are available for purchase on-site.
  • Book Store: The museum features a bookstore where visitors can purchase Hemingway’s works and other related literature.

Events and Weddings

  • Events: The museum grounds serve as a venue for various cultural events and can be rented for private functions.
  • Weddings: Offering a historic and picturesque setting, weddings regularly take place here, complemented by the property’s lush gardens.

The Hemingway Home Grounds and Architecture

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, a treasured National Historic Landmark located on Whitehead Street in Key West, Florida, offers visitors a rich architectural and horticultural experience. This section elaborates on the distinctive Spanish Colonial style of the residence, the meticulously tended gardens, the notable in-ground pool, and the layout of the outbuildings that complement the property.

The Spanish Colonial Style Home

The Hemingway Home embodies the Spanish Colonial architectural style, distinguished by its stucco walls and red-tiled roof. Built in 1851, the structure showcases the traditional features of this style, such as thick walls and large central rooms for natural cooling.

Gardens and Landscaping

Surrounding the home are lush gardens, providing both aesthetic pleasure and privacy. Native plants and tropical foliage align with the pathways, creating a serene environment for reflection.

The Famous Hemingway Pool

A highlight of the property is the in-ground swimming pool, an extraordinary feature for a residential home in the 1930s. Hemingway’s pool was an extravagant addition, costing, at that time, an astonishing $20,000 to construct.

The Outbuildings and Property Layout

The property layout includes several outbuildings that serve as functional extensions of the main house. These structures adhere to the home’s Spanish Colonial style and are strategically placed to maintain the integrity of the overall design.

Ernest Hemingway’s Six-Toed Cats

Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida is as much a sanctuary for literary history as it is for the famous six-toed cats that roam its gardens. The Hemingway Home & Museum is home to approximately 50 polydactyl, or six-toed, cats, which are descendants of Hemingway’s original cat, Snow White.

History of the Hemingway Cats

Ernest Hemingway was gifted a white six-toed cat named Snow White in the 1930s by a ship’s captain. This breed, known for its polydactylism, was thought to bring good luck by sailors. Polydactyl cats are not a specific breed, rather they are defined by their multiple toes; most cats have five front toes and four back toes, while polydactyl cats may have as many as eight.

Cat Care and Conservation

The Hemingway Home and Museum is dedicated to the care and conservation of these unique animals. They ensure that each cat receives:

  • Regular veterinary care, including vaccinations and health check-ups.
  • high-quality diet to maintain their health and well-being.

The staff employs best practices to maintain the genetic lineage of the polydactyl cats while also ensuring the population remains at a sustainable number through a spay and neuter program.

The Cat Cemetery and Its Significance

The museum grounds also feature a cat cemetery, where many of the property’s former feline residents rest. This area serves as a testament to the close-knit nature of the home’s community of cats and the care afforded to them over the years. It also acts as a historical record, with many of the tombstones dating back decades, inscribed with the names of these beloved pets, marking their place in the legacy of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

Collection and Exhibits

The Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West houses an extensive array of Ernest Hemingway’s personal items, each providing insight into the life and work of one of America’s most celebrated writers.

Personal Artifacts & Photographs

The museum displays a remarkable collection of Hemingway’s personal artifacts and photographs. These items offer visitors an intimate glimpse into Hemingway’s life in Key West, including his family life with his second wife, Pauline, and their children. Photographic displays capture moments from their domestic lives, travels, and Hemingway’s social circles.

Typewriters and Manuscripts

On exhibit are several typewriters that Hemingway used throughout his career, tangible tools of his trade that produced some of his most famous works. Original manuscripts and early drafts showcase Hemingway’s writing process, his revisions, and his thoughts as he created stories that would captivate readers for generations.

Hemingway’s Personal Library

The personal library collection of Ernest Hemingway contains books that influenced and reflected his interests, both as a reader and a writer. The volumes range from classic literature to contemporary works during Hemingway’s time, many containing annotations and marginalia that give unique insight into Hemingway’s mind and reading habits.

Memorabilia and Ephemera

A variety of memorabilia and ephemera related to Hemingway are on display, such as personal letters, fishing gear, and awards. This collection not only highlights Hemingway’s achievements and hobbies but also helps contextualize his place within the literary world and the broader historical events of his time.

Educational Opportunities and Resources

The Hemingway Home & Museum offers a diverse range of educational opportunities designed for learners of all ages, focusing on the life and works of Ernest Hemingway. From in-person tours to workshops and a variety of online resources, the museum serves as a critical point of learning and engagement for students, writers, and enthusiasts.

Guided Educational Tours

The museum provides guided educational tours that cater to both school groups and individuals seeking to learn about Hemingway’s life, his literature, and his influence. Tour guides offer detailed insights into Hemingway’s years spent in Key West, with a particular emphasis on how the location impacted his writing.

  • Hours of Operation: Daily, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Pricing: General admission $18; Students (age 7-12) $7; Children (under 5) Free

Workshops and Learning Events

Throughout the year, the museum hosts various workshops and learning events to delve into specific aspects of Hemingway’s works. Scholars and literary experts lead these sessions, fostering a deeper understanding of literary techniques and historical contexts.

  • Annual Events: Hemingway Days Festival in July, featuring literary events and readings

Online Resources and Contact Information

For those unable to visit the museum in person, a wealth of online resources is available. The museum’s official website provides educational materials, including articles, photographs, and a biography of Ernest Hemingway.

Jerry Joyce

Jerry Joyce has been a Florida resident since 1998 and has lived in a variety of places in the South Florida area. Jerry is an avid boater & water sports enthusiast, beach aficionado, a lover of great food, muscle car fan and a theme park annual passholder for many years. Some of his favorite places in Florida include the Florida Keys, Walt Disney World, Cedar Key, the Loxahatchee River, St. Augustine and Ten Thousand islands.

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