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Hemingway House and Museum Key West - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

The Hemingway House and Museum on Whitehead Street in Key West is a National Historic Landmark.

The mansion and gardens are open to the public from 9 - 5 pm 365 days of the year and the entrance fee when we visited in Nov 2007 was $11 with a reduced rate for children (although I would not think there is much here to interest a younger child)

Whilst not compulsory to take a guided tour, I would strongly recommend it as the knowledge and storytelling acumen of our guide was excellent. There is no additional cost for the tour (only the non obligatory tip! ! )

Ernest Hemingway owned the house from 1931 - 1961 and lived here with his second wife Pauline. The guide told us of Pauline’s chandelier collection with which she replaced all the ceiling fans (making the house unbearably hot! ) and of Pauline’s expense when building the outdoor pool, which even in the late 1930’s cost $20, 000! ! When Hemingway heard the cost of the work he handed Pauline a penny and said “here, take my last cent, you’ve had everything else! ” The “last penny” can still be seen cemented into the pool surroundings and covered by glass to protect it.

This is not a trip to take if you dislike cats! The property is home to over 60 cats - our guide seemed to know the names of every one we came across! Many of the cats have 6 toes and legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was given a six toed cat, by an old sea captain, when he left Key West. Many of the cats on the property are descendants of the original tom.

For ten years Hemingway used The Old Carriage House at the back of the property as his writing studio, he would write there in the mornings when the temperatures were cooler and it is there that he is thought to have written the novel “Farewell to Arms”. It is also from his years living in Key West that he is rumored to have been given the inspiration for many of the characters in the book “To have and to Have Not”.

The writing studio can be viewed on the tour, although there is restricted access as it up a narrow flight of stairs and can only be seen from only from the doorway entrance. The room is furnished just as it was when Hemingway used to write there with many of the original furnishings.

After the tour we wandered around the gardens and were free to return to any areas of the house we had already seen. This gave us the opportunity to view the script and narratives which many of the photographs and artifacts contained and which we had not had time to read during the tour.

This tour is not suitable for anyone who does not manage stairs easily. We visited on a warm Nov day and even with all the windows open and electric fans blowing the house was very hot! I would not recommend this tour in the height of summer!

Whilst the guided part of the tour lasted about 30 minutes I would allow 1 -1 1/2 hours to see everything properly.

Good value for money and a must for followers of Hemingway’s works.

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