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Historical Tours

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: Where Papa's Cats Still Rule the Roost

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum holds a lot of history. There's the house itself, playing testament to the furnishings of the 1930s, the period in which he lived there. Then there's the rich history of the man himself and the adventure-filled life he lived.

The History of the House


Built in 1851, the Spanish colonial home pays historical tribute to the settlers who first descended upon the city. Since the house had fallen into a state of disrepair bordering on ruin, the author poured a significant amount of money into restoring and furnishing it in a manner reflecting its history. One addition he made was an unexpected one. Hemingway was a gregarious guy, and so he met people from all walks of life. Soon after moving into his house, he was befriended by a sea captain who gave him a beautiful white cat. He pointed out that she had six toes on her front feet, a trait that was said to bring good luck to its owner. One thing for certain is that Snowball was not spayed. For now, almost a century later, several of the cats in residence can be traced back to Snowball since they also have six toes, giving them the appearance of wearing mittens.

The History of the Man

The swimming pool that Pauline, his wife had built, had the distinction of being the only in-ground pool within 100 miles, a bragging point that came at a great cost. Its price tag of $20,000 was a point of contention between him and his wife, adding to the burgeoning amount of disagreements that would result in her becoming his ex-wife, one of several that played a part of his personal history. The furnishings are also part of his history since many are European antiques he acquired while living on the continent.

Hemingway's Contribution to American Literature is Part of the History of Key West

Speaking of American literature, his first apartment where he lived soon after his arrival is a point of interest on our walking tour since it is where he put the finishing touches on one of his signature works, A Farewell to Arms, a World War I novel said to be partially autobiographical. And of course, you'll get a chance to grab a barstool at his favorite watering hole Sloppy Joe's. Now known as Captain Tony's Saloon. Sloppy Joe's was a place where he spent many of his nights. Far from being a waste of time, his hours of imbibing were invaluable in penning another of his iconic novels, To Have and Have Not, whose colorful characters are based on drinking buddies he encountered at Sloppy Joe's.

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