Hemingway House

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Mon 14 May 2012 22:01
Ernest Hemingway House, Key West



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Neither of us are Ernest Hemingway readers but as his house here in Key West is in the 1000 Things book, off we went 


Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms while living above the showroom of a Key West Ford dealership at 314 Simonton Street while awaiting delivery of a Ford Model A roadster purchased by the uncle of his wife Pauline in 1928. Hardware store owner Charles Thompson introduced him to deep-sea fishing. Among the group who went fishing was Joe Russell (also known as Sloppy Joe). Russell was reportedly the model for Freddy in To Have and Have Not. Portions of the original manuscript were found at Sloppy Joe's Bar after his death. The group had nicknames for each other, and Hemingway wound up with "Papa".

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Pauline's rich uncle Gus Pfeiffer bought the 907 Whitehead Street house in 1931 as a wedding present. Legend says the Hemingway's installed the swimming pool for $20,000 in the late 1930’s (equivalent in 2006 to $250,000). It was such a high price that Hemingway is said to have put a penny in the concrete, saying, "Here, take the last penny I've got!" The penny is still there.


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The house holds many personal bits, service records and medals


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Next to the house is a building that now houses the restrooms and shop on the lower floor and Ernest’s writing room / office as it was on the upper floor.


During his stay he wrote or worked on Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. He used Depression-era Key West as the locale for To Have and Have Not - his only novel set in the United States.

Pauline and Hemingway divorced in 1939, and Hemingway only occasionally visited while returning from Havana until his suicide in 1961.

During his final years, Hemingway's behavior was similar to his father's before he himself committed suicide; his father may have had the genetic disease hemochromatosis, in which the inability to metabolise iron culminates in mental and physical deterioration. Medical records made available in 1991 confirm that Hemingway's hemochromatosis had been diagnosed in early 1961. His sister Ursula and his brother Leicester also committed suicide. Added to Hemingway's physical ailments was the additional problem that he had been a heavy drinker for most of his life.

Hemingway's family and friends flew to Ketchum for the funeral which was officiated by the local Catholic priest, who believed the death accidental. Of the funeral (during which an altar boy fainted at the head of the casket), his brother Leicester wrote: "It seemed to me Ernest would have approved of it all."

In a press interview five years later Mary Hemingway admitted that her husband had committed suicide.  



Margaux Hemingway


A Sad Legacy: Margot Louise Hemingway was born in Portland, Oregon, and was the older sister of actress Mariel Hemingway and the granddaughter of writer Ernest. When she learned that she was named for the wine, Château Margaux, which her parents, Puck and Jack Hemingway (eldest son of Ernest), were drinking the night she was conceived, she changed the original spelling from "Margot" to "Margaux" to match. At six feet tall, Hemingway experienced success as a model, including a million-dollar contract for Fabergé as the spokesmodel for Babe perfume in the 1970’s. This was the first million-dollar contract ever awarded to a fashion model. She also appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazaar, and appeared on the 16th of June 1975 cover of Time, which dubbed her one of the "new beauties". Almost exactly thirty five years after Hemingway's death, on the 1st of July 1996, Margaux Hemingway died of a phenobarbital overdose in Santa Monica, California. Margaux was a supermodel and actress, co-starring with her sister Mariel in the 1976 movie Lipstick. Her death was later ruled a suicide, making her "the fifth person in four generations of her family to commit suicide."

The sad list - Hemingway's father, Clarence; siblings Ursula, Leicester and Ernest; granddaughter Margaux. The generation skipped was just barely: Hemingway's youngest son, Gregory, died in 2001 as a transsexual named Gloria, of causes that put a lot of strain on the term "natural."



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The six or seven-toed polydactyl cats descended from Hemingway's original pet 'Snowball' still live on the grounds (over forty of them) and are cared for at the Hemingway House, despite complaints by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that they are not kept free from visitor contact, and the Key West City Commission exempted the house from a law prohibiting more than four domestic animals per household. We met our first of many in the main bedroom sound asleep on Ernest’s bed.


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We enjoyed the gardens


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We had lunch in a cheery café next door and walked toward town, passing a real winner.