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Published: January 2nd 2007
I think any high school student who had the privilege of taking the tour through Hemingway’s home and museum in Key West would surely take their studies of Hemingway’s literature more seriously. Here, through an outstanding guide, Hemingway comes alive. Here you hear the stories and see the articles of Hemingway’s life that inspired the stories he wrote.
The house itself is an interesting story. Built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker. Tift found out what is true throughout Florida. When the topsoil is removed you hit shale or limestone. Tift also found out the lot was sixteen feet above sea level. So he quarried the stone for the house right from the sight. He not only got the stone for the house but also ended with the only basement in Key West that remains dry.
The house was bought by the Hemingway’s in 1931 and still contains the furniture that was used by the Hemingway’s. The Hemingway’s were people of the world so the house is furnished from articles from all over the world.
On display are Hemingway’s rod and reel. He set a record for catching Marlin one year. An
old helmet from the Spanish Civil War. A large lithograph shows Gregorio Fuentes: Fuentes was the cook and mate on Hemingway’s fishing boat “Pilar” for more that 20 Years. Fuentes is a character in Hemingway’s “ The Old Man and the Sea.”
On the grounds also is a swimming pool was built in 1937-38 at a cost of $20,000. Hemingway was away at the time and when he returned and found out how much it cost he took a penny out of his pocket and gave it to his wife and said laughingly, “Well, you might as well take my last cent.” His “last cent’ can still be seen under glass even today.
Hemingway was married four times and from those four wives had three sons. Two of his well known granddaughters are Margaux and Mariel Hemingway.
Hemingway’s father, Clarence, his siblings Ursula and Leicester and later his granddaughter Margaux all committed suicide. Some believe that certain members of Hemingway’s paternal line had a genetic condition or hereditary disease known as Hemochromatosis, in which an excess of iron concentration in the blood cause damage to the pancreas and cause depression or instability.
Ernest Hemingway took his
Rod and Reel
Hemingway's rod and reel for catching marlin.
own life on the morning of July 2, 1961 at his home in Ketchum, Idaho, with a shotgun blast to his head. He had just had electric shock treatment for his depression and thought he had lost his memory. He worried about being put out of business because of this. Also, Castro had just taken over Cuba and had confiscated his house and all his manuscripts. To this day, his place is a museum in Cuba that all but Americans can visit. Hemingway’s writing room is sealed off. You can look in and it is just as Hemingway left it. His wife pleated with John F. Kennedy to ask Castro if she could come to Cuba and retrieve his manuscripts. Castro let her come and take what she could carry. That was one manuscript. The rest remains in Cuba.
The Hemingway legacy lives on through the cats that live on the grounds. Many are six toed cats. The story goes that Hemingway made the acquaintance of a sea captain who owned an unusual six-toed tomcat. Upon his departure from Key West, the captain presented the cat to Hemingway. Today, the descendents of the numerous cats that inhabit the grounds
still possess the unusual six toes.
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