Quirky Attraction: Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

ernest-hemingway-portrait

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Location: Key West, FL (908 Whitehead St.)
When to visit: Open 9am – 5pm, 365 days a year
Cost: Adults $14, kids $6
Time needed: 30-60 minutes
Website: www.hemingwayhome.com

Famed American author Ernest Hemingway (he’s the dude responsible for For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea) spent a good part of his life living in Key West in this house. Guests can stop by to see the house as it was in the ’30s, complete with original furniture.

All that history is great. But if you’ve heard of the Hemingway House, it’s probably because of a different reason… those cats!

six-toed-cats-hemingway

Currently, 53 cats live on the property, and most are polydactyl, meaning they have six toes on their paws instead of five. Some are descendants of the very first polydactyl cat Hemingway had all those decades ago. Her name was Snow White.

They take good care of the cats here. There’s a full-time vet who takes tends to them. As you walk around the property, you’ll encounter at least a couple dozen of these kitties. Some like to hang out in the backyard, some stay in their little wooden outdoor houses, and some prefer Hemingway’s old bed. Fun fact: Because Hemingway was such a large man, they had to use an old monastery gate as a headboard:

hemingway-bedroom-cats

Check out the monument to the Hemingway Home cats that passed away. Most of these cats lived at least 14 years, and some as long as 21 years! And look at the famous names: John Wayne, Mark Twain, Ava Gardner, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Crawford!

hemingway-cats-headstone

When the Hemingways moved in, there was a boxing ring in the backyard. That was relocated so a fancy swimming pool could be installed. It was the only pool within 100 miles of Key West, took a year and a half to install, and cost $20,000, an exorbitant sum in 1937.

hemingway-key-west-swimming

Here’s a funny piece of history. When his favorite bar closed down, Hemingway took one of the urinals and brought it home, much to the chagrin of his wife. He turned it into the giant cat water bowl that is still part of the property.

urinal-cat-water-bowl

Come see Hemingway’s kitchen…

hemingway-kitchen

and Hemingway’s balcony…

hemingway-house-balcony

If you have the time, stop by the Hemingway House to see how an iconic author lived. See all the furniture, the old house, and the spacious grounds.

And those cats!

cats-key-west

hemingway-house-cats

And just for fun, here’s a 1964 New York Times article announcing that this house was opening as a museum.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who puts a quirky spin on travel adventures around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

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