Have you ever been to Key West? If you love sunshine, turquoise waters, beautiful sunsets and a vibrant literary history – Key West, Florida offers a captivating blend of them all! Nestled amidst this island paradise lies a classic treasure: Ernest Hemingway’s Home & Museum. These days, it’s more than just a home. This meticulously preserved space offers a window into the life and mind of one of America’s most celebrated authors. Come with me (and Big Al) and step back in time, exploring the very place where Hemingway wrote some of his famous literary masterpieces.

 A collage of Ernest Hemingway's home and a Key West sunset.

Hemingway’s Key West Haven: A Literary Escape

I knew Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a critically acclaimed American novelist, before visiting his home. What I didn’t realize is that his personal life was quite controversial. No matter what your view on him is personally, he’s widely considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and his books remain classic American literature.

Hemingway was a hard-drinking sportsman. He was an avid hunter, fisherman and loved the island of Cuba, where he lived for many years. Ernest first made his way to Key West for the opportunity to fish. He loved to sail his boat, Pilar, around the Keys and fish the Gulf Stream.

Today, his Key West home is a tourist landmark and museum.


“In order to write about life first you must live it.”  – Ernest Hemingway

A portrait of Ernest Hemingway hanging above the fireplace in his dining room.

Stepping Back in Time: The History of Hemingway’s Home

Here comes a little history lesson, for you!

Ernest Hemingway’s house was built in 1851 for a wealthy marine architect and salvager named Asa Tift. It was constructed in the French Colonial style with native Key West rock. If you are wondering what Key West rock is, it’s a form of fossilized oolite limestone, which is a very durable material.

There are green shutters on each window and a veranda that spans all the way around the home. With all those windows, the light inside the house is spectacular!

Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline Pfeiffer first arrived in Key West in 1928 and lived in various rentals for several years. They finally purchased the house in 1931 for a reported $8,000. The house was in serious disrepair but Hemingway’s wife loved it and recognized its potential, convincing her wealthy uncle to purchase it as a wedding gift.

Nice wedding gift, right?!

Hemingway and Pauline divorced in 1940. After their split, he moved to Cuba and stayed there on an off until 1961. His house remained in the family and after Hemingway died in 1961, his home was eventually auctioned off and became a private museum. In 1968, it was deemed a historical landmark.

Ernest Hemingway's haven in Key West, Florida.

Finding Inspiration: Hemingway’s Creative Space

Hemingway had his own personal creative space. It was in a separate building behind his home and the spaces were connected by a catwalk. A perfect pun as you will read, later on. He actually only lived in Key West for nine years. During his time in Key West (1931-1940), Hemingway wrote two of his most famous novels, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Have Not.”

Currently, the bottom half of his creative studio is now a gift shop where you can purchase all of his books and many other souvenier items.

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Ernest Hemingway's creative spacee in his back house in Key West, Florida. One of his original typewriters is displayed.


 “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typwriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Throughout each room in his home, there is a typewriter that his hands used. For me, because I like to write, it was actually fascinating to think he penned his famous titles on those typewriters. And check out that case! He actually carried his typewriter around from place to place, in that case. History, friends!

A picture of one of Hemingway's original typewriters and case.

The bathroom and kitchen have much of the original tile work and fixtures. Talk about bright yellow!

The Polydactyl Cats of Hemingway Home

Do you know what a polydactyl cat is? It is a cat that has six toes. If you are a cat lover, well, you’ll really enjoy this part of the tour. If you don’t like them, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat, by a ship’s captain. He named the cat Snow White and there are currently 59 cats on the property and are decendents from Snow White. So, the story goes. They actually have a controlled breading program and there are literally cats everywhere you go on the property. Inside and outside. This little gem, followed Big Al and I around the entire house.

One of the six-toed cats on the Hemingway property in Key West, Florida.

All the cats were very friendly and it was truly fascinating to see them all. There is even have a “cat-house” attached to the back of the property that is a replica of Hemingway’s home. Again, if you like cats, I guarantee you’ll love this part of the tour. So fun and intriguing!

The Hemingway Home & Museum Today

Big Al and I were in Key West for five days and this tour was one of the highlights. Key West is beautiful all on it’s own. However, if you love books, history AND cats you will not be disappointed!

Happy traveling, friends!

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8 Comments

  1. What a wonderful vacation. Thanks for sharing! We missed that tour when we were in the keys.

  2. Ive always wanted to visit the Keys. Loves hearing about your visit to Hemingway’s house. Especially the cats!!

  3. What fun! I appreciate the history lesson. Key West is high on my list of places to vacation … sounds like you had a great getaway. xo

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