House Tour: Ernest Hemingway

It was the advice from a fellow “Lost Generation” ex patriate that persuaded Ernest Hemingway to visit Key West, Florida. He arrived in Key West in 1928 from Havana, Cuba. During this time he was in the middle of writing A Farewell to Arms, and had recently married Pauline Pfeiffer. After about three weeks and meeting several interesting new acquaintances the newlyweds decided to look for a permanent residence.  

The Hemingway home was built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial style and was constructed of native rock hewn from the grounds. When both Pauline and Ernest took ownership of the house in 1930 the home was in shambles and needed a great deal of work. Many of the unique furnishings are European Antiques from their stay in Paris. True to form, Ernest Hemingway decorated his home with trophy mounts and skins from his African Safari’s and numerous hunting expeditions. 

Along with the grand home Hemingway also incorporated beautiful gardens and a large pool to his property. The swimming pool was the only in-ground pool in Key West and was planned by Hemingway himself. The garden was filled with indigenous flowers from around Key West. Flowers included hibiscus, gardenia, jasmine, water lily, and caladium.    

Hemingway was given a six-toed cat from a ship’s captain and from there 60 cats descended and still live on the property today. Hemingway was known around town for his reckless behavior and uncontrollable drinking habits. He was known for hanging out at the local watering hole, ‘Sloppy Joe’s.

Hemingway and Pauline divorced in 1940. Hemingway moved back to Cuba and eventually went on to marry his third wife Martha Gellhorn.

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Hemingway understood that sometimes the beauty of a story, or of a picture, is in its small simple details. Hemingway took this sentiment into account with his home.