The Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida is full of interesting stories and even some legends. Built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a master mariner and ship’s chandler, the historical building was where author Ernest Hemingway lived with his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer while he wrote “A Farewell To Arms” and “To Have And Have Not”.
Today, the historic property is open to visitors who can explore the grounds that were once home to the famous resident.
The Ernest Hemingway House, located in Key West, Florida, is a National Historic Landmark and museum dedicated to the life and works of famed American author and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway. It was his private residence from 1931 to 1939 and provides an insight into the literary genius who lived there with his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, during some of the most productive years of his career.
The two-story house was built in 1851 in a Spanish Colonial style with an open courtyard and fountain surrounded by lush tropical plants. The house is filled with artifacts from Hemingway’s life, including old photographs, letters, books, furniture, and even the typewriter he used to write some of his most famous works.
In addition to its historical significance, the Ernest Hemingway House also serves as a reminder of one of America’s most iconic authors and his lasting impact on literature.
The Ernest Hemingway House also serves as a tribute to the author’s immense influence in the literary world. The house has been preserved with much of its original furniture and artwork, giving visitors an idea of what life may have been like for Hemingway during his time there. It is a reminder of the many works he wrote while living in Key West, including To Have and Have Not, which was largely set in Key West.
While you can explore the home on your own, we recommend that you go on one of the guided tours. One of the things you may first notice is the remarkable resemblance of some of the staff members to the writer.
Whether your tour guide looks like Ernest Hemingway or not, you will learn a lot about the great writer, his wives, his time in Cuba, and so much more.
The Swimming Pool Legend
The grounds of the Hemingway House also play host to an interesting legend: the pool is said to be where Ernest Hemingway threw his last penny. The story goes that he was exasperated with his wife spending so much money on the pool that he pulled a penny out of his pocket, threw it down, and said, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!”
When you consider that the pool was finished in 1938 during the height of the Great Depression for $20,000, you can appreciate why he said that. (Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $412,218 dollars today.)
Regardless of the legend behind the pool, it was an architectural feat in 1937. To construct the first in-ground pool in Key West, solid coral had to be excavated with picks and sledgehammers. The only pool within 100 miles, it measured 24 feet by 60 feet and was filled with 80,000+ gallons of salt water which had to be drilled because there was no running water (at the time).
While visiting the Hemingway home, guests are likely to spot some of the polydactyl cats that have lived there since Ernest’s time. Captain Harold Stanley Dexter sailed to Key West with his white six-toed cat, Snowball. Hemingway knew the captain and cat from the docks. After Snowball had a litter of kittens, the captain gifted Hemingway with one whom he named Snow White.
To quote Hemingway, “One cat just leads to another.” Walking around the property you will see how accurate this is as descendants of that original cat freely roam the property. And just as the famous author once did, the cats are named after famous people.
While exploring the beautiful property, be on the lookout for the cat cemetery and their watering spot which is made with an old tile urinal that was once at Sloppy Joe’s Bar.
Ernest Hemingway’s Works Written in Key West
We can only imagine what inspired Hemingway to write such masterpieces from his home in Key West. Below are just some of the works he wrote during his time there:
- Death in the Afternoon, 1932
- The Green Hills of Africa, 1935
- The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1936
- The Short & Happy Life of Francis Macomber, 1936
- To Have and Have Not, 1937
- The Fifth Column, 1938
- Night Before Battle, 1939
Ernest Hemingway’s Wives
Ernest Hemingway was married four times, and each of his wives influenced his writing.
- His first wife was Hadley Richardson (September 3, 1921 – March 10, 1927) They had a son named Jack (“Bumby).
- His second wife was Pauline Pfieffer (May 10, 1927 – November 4, 1940) They had two sons together, Patrick and Gregory.
- His third wife was Martha Gellhorn (November 5, 1940 – December 21, 1945)
- His fourth and last wife was Mary Welsh (March 14, 1946 – July 2, 1961)
Hours and Admission
The house and museum are open every day from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. Admission includes a 20-30 minute guided tour. Have your cash ready because credit cards are not accepted.
Rates are $18 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years old or older.
The Writing Experience
Want to walk in Hemingway’s steps? Or perhaps you want to write in his writing studio? You can book The Hemingway Home Evening Writing Experience for $1,500 for 3 hours (4:30 pm until 7:30 pm).
The experience covers 2 people who will have a guided tour and exclusive access to the writing studio where Hemingway wrote many of his greatest works.
The Ernest Hemingway Home is located in Old Town Key West at 907 Whitehead Street, approximately 0.8 miles from Mallory Square. If you board the free Duval Loop Bus, get off at stop number 8 for Whitehead & Petronia.
In our opinion, the Ernest Hemingway House is worth a visit. It’s an iconic piece of literary history that offers visitors the chance to learn about one of America’s greatest writers – and the cats that made him smile. From exploring the grounds to learning more about his wives, there is something for everyone at this unique Florida attraction.
Be sure to check out The Florida Keys and Key West website for more great things to do in the Florida Keys!