Hemingway’s Hallowed Grounds
When I think of great American writers, names like Fitzgerald, Dickinson, Steinbeck, and Hemmingway top my list of favorites. Lucky for me, Hemmingway spent a good portion of his life living and writing at his home in Key West. And even though I have been to his Key West home before, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to be in the same creative space as one of the greats.
We left our hotel and made the short walk to Whitehead St. where the two story white house with green green trim and yellow shutters sits behind a privacy fence of brick and and foliage. We approached the main gate to purchase our tickets. As I handed over my cash to the attendance, I asked when the next tour was. He took my money and responded as if I was bothering him. The price to tour the home is a little steep at $13 per person and even though the host was anything but welcomings, we paid and made our way into the house.
As we walked in, a group of kids were just staring on the tour. We decided to go in the opposite direction and do a self led tour. We wandered through the dining room lined with photos of the famous writer. We peeked in the kitchen as I imagined wife Pauline preparing some fish that Hemingway had caught.
Ascending the stairs to the second floor, we found the six-toed felines that the property is famous for. One lazily slept on Hemingway’s bed oblivious to the dozens of tourists snapping pictures.
From the bedroom, we made the short jaunt on the catwalk to Hemingway’s writing studio which apparently had been used in a recent contest. The winner of the writing contest was allotted so many hours a day to use the space to craft his own work. How inspirational to sit in the same chair and use the same desk that Hemingway used to pen some of his most famous works. It would be hard not to be inspired sitting in that room taking in the swaying palm trees and the ocean breeze.
Next stop was the grounds. We searched for six-toed kitties, found the cat house designed to be a miniature of the main house. Finally we stumbled upon the in ground pool. The story goes that Hemingway’s wife Pauline spent all but his last penny on this $20,000 pool. In a fit of anger he flung his last penny into the still wet concrete. The penny can still be found on the grounds if you know where to search for it.
On that hot July day, that pool looked delightful. I could imagine parties being thrown poolside. The complete privacy of the surrounding fence and the lovely landscaping turned that pool into the perfect backyard oasis. All I needed was a copy of A Farewell to Arms, a raft, and a frosty beverage, and I could have had the perfect afternoon. Instead I had to settle for a bottle of warm water and my imagination. Geoff on the other hand found the urinal that Hemingway took from Sloppy Joe’s and had turned into a fountain and decided to pose appropriately.
I love touring places where authors have written. Whether it’s Thoreau’s Walden Pond, Alcott’s Orchard House, or Hemingway’s home, there is an energy in the air that is palpable. Creativity blooms in all of these places, and I feel privileged to be able to walk in the footsteps of the greats.