Key West, FL

You Can Tour Ernest Hemingway's Florida Home and See Descendents of His Six-Toed Cats

L. Cane

Ernest Hemingway was a world-famous author who is best known for novels like The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won the Nobel Prize. Although Hemingway spent part of his early life in Europe and his later life in Cuba, he lived in Key West, Florida from 1931 to 1939.

The Hemingway House and Hemingway's Time in Key West: The house that the writer would eventually call home is a Spanish colonial house built in the 1850s. The home is two stories, and Hemingway made the top floor his writing studio, where he wrote To Have and Have Not and many other works. In 1968, the home was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

When Hemingway wasn't at home, he liked to spend time at Sloppy Joe's Bar, also in Key West, and visit the Dry Tortugas, a south Florida national park one must access by boat or ferry.

The Tour Today: Touring the Hemingway House is one of the more popular attractions in Key West. And the home is quite beautiful, with well-kept gardens.

However, the home wasn't always in the condition that it's in today. When Hemingway bought the home, it was in disrepair. Hemingway spent generous amounts of money restoring it and adding an inground pool - the first in Key West - which was said to cost $20,000, a substantial sum at that time.

When you take the tour and see inside the home, you might notice artifacts from Hemingway's extensive travels, as well as 18th-century Spanish artifacts. There are also the red leather chairs used in Hemingway's play The Fifth Column.

The outside of the home can be just as compelling, as the garden is filled with blooming flowers like jasmine, hibiscus, and gardenia.

The tour guides receive good reviews, and admission is $17 for adults and $7 for children.

Those Six-Toed Cats AKA the "Hemingway Cats:" In the 1930s, a sea captain and friend gave Hemingway a cat who he named "Snow White. The cat had six toes. Sailors believed that the six-toed cats, called polydactyl cats, were good luck.

Today, the Hemingway House and Museum is home to about 60 cats, some of whom are descendants of Snow White and also have six toes. All of the cats carry the polydactyl gene, but only about half have six toes. The Hemingway House has carried on the tradition (started by Hemingway) of naming the cats after famous celebrities.

Although the cats are free to roam the property, they are well cared for by a veterinarian. Some of the previous cats have headstones on the grounds. The museum is located at 907 Whitehead Street in Key West.

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