The Hemingway House
I'm always at the ready when I see tourists here looking at a map and offer assistance with directions. Because of my close proximity, often they are looking for The Hemingway House. I usually tell them right after I point them in the right direction, “I hate that place!”
They usually look quite surprised and ask why.
“Because they won't allow me to move in!”
Naturally, everyone laughs!
I try to make a point of going there once a year. Well, that's the goal. As with so many things in life, those in close proximity are more likely to be on the receiving end of procrastination.
As one of the books I'm currently writing involves a bit of Hemingway in it, I scooted the three blocks over to the house for some research into obtaining a book there. Naturally, we did a tour and had a look around.
Houses here in Key West are, speaking as a matter of fact, stunning. The architecture ranges from Conch homes, brought over from the Bahamas and rebuilt here, to bungalows, to so many homes in Old Town, which were made for New England sea captain's winter homes, in the style that they enjoyed in New England. If you took away the palm trees, a picture of many of these homes could easily be confused with Chatham or Gloucester sea port homes.
The Hemingway House is unique to itself, however. It is the only French Colonial style house on the island that I am familiar with. It sits on the second highest point on the island at 16 ft. (Solaris Hill is the highest in Key West at 18 ft. while Lignumvitae Key is the highest overall in the Keys at 19 Ft)
The home is just stunning. Back in the day when it was built in 1851, there was no such thing as air conditioning, of course. Therefore it's very airy and breezy, with large windows which used to be open to allow the breeze. It also has a basement, which is highly unusual for any house in the Conch Republic, be it in Key West, Key Largo, or anywhere in between. Tours don't include the basement... I want to see the basement!
The ceilings are high, perhaps ten feet (three meters) and the major rooms and hallways all have chandeliers from Murano, Italy, that the Hemingways installed.
The home is decorated with many pictures of Hemingway, as you would expect.
The pool is enormous, with a cost of $20,000 when it was built in 1938. This equates to $330,000.00 today! They had to dynamite it. There's no other way to get through the coral rock base here. In the end, it was actually about 2 ½ times more expensive than the entire house was, only several years earlier, when they bought it in 1931 It's 10 feet deep (3meters) at the south end and half that at the north end. It's sixty feet long (18.2 Meters) and twenty-four feet wide (7.3 Meters). There's a great tale about it, which the tour guides will recant to you.
I don't want to go too far into depth on the property, in the event you decide to visit. If so, definitely go on one of the organized tours of the home. The guides will give a very informative tour of the facility. When you go on the tour, at the end, be certain to tip (gratuity) to the guide. $5 or more per person is polite.
If you are from Europe, please understand that tipping (Gratuity) is part of our culture here and how many actually make their living. At a place like Hemingway's, there's not a base, but five dollars or more is good.
In restaurants and bars, for reasons I can't explain, 18% of the bill is where it starts. I usually make it simple and round it off to 20%. It's easy to figure. A $100 bill gets a $20 tip. $50 a $10 so on and so forth.
So, the Hemingway house is a must for anyone visiting Key West. They also have a bookstore on the property. After doing the tour, I can't imagine anyone not wanting to read something by Hemingway.
The Green Hills of Africa, Death in The Afternoon, To Have and Have Not, For Whom The Bell Tolls (released a year after he left Key West, but largely written here) are a few of the works he wrote while living in this house.
For many visiting Key West, their destinations are focused on the various watering holes. That's a fun thing, however, Key West offers places such as Hemingway's home, which offer something geared more for those who enjoy more cerebral enjoyment, be it for an afternoon, or the entire visit.
The gardens at Hemingway's house can only be described as being lush.
When I'm there, I don't want to leave.
I've purposely left massive information out of this blog so as not to spoil so many facts that go along with The Hemingway House for when you go! Enjoy!
In the end, if I won a huge lottery, yes, I'd love to live in Hemingway's house here in Key West. However, after only a moment, the reality is, this is not for any individual, in this day and age. This is an American treasure, to be shared with the entire world.
The Hemingway House is located at 907 Whitehead St, a few doors down from the intersection of Truman and Whitehead intersection.
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