Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Hemingway House

(Above: The veranda at the Hemingway House. Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

It's been over a year since I filled out the application for an artist residency at The Studios of Key West. When I was deep into this paperwork, my husband Steve continued to whisper in my ear, "I know why you want to go to Key West. You just want to see the six-toed cats at the Hemingway House". He was partially correct ... but I also wanted to see the master's typewriter ... plus, of course, have an uninterrupted month in which to create art!

So, the day after teaching my workshop, I went ... to see the cats ... to see the typewriter ... to soak up the history of a literary giant working in paradise "back in the day".

It was all I had hoped for ... and more. As much as I anticipated this excursion into yesteryear, I was surprised at how choked up I actually became. It was magical.

(Above: Gertrude Stein, a six toed cat at the Hemingway House.)

And, yes, there were cats ... about 43 of them.

Each and every one has six toes or at least the genetic trait to pass on to future ancestors of Hemingway's favorite pets. These polydactyl cats live all over the grounds. They were all born here and are totally accustom to camera wielding tourists. They can sleep through any shutter speeds but occasionally want to be pet or scratched behind the ear.

During the guided tour I took, a cat pranced into the bedroom and clawed at the carpet. She was permitted to do so. She then plopped down at the feet a group of tourists ... quite certain that no one would step on her. Another cat was asleep on the master bed.

I think the guide called this cat Audrey Hepburn.

The cats know that the guides carry cat treats in their pockets. This one wanted a treat badly ... and got it.

The art deco tiles in the bathroom where awesome.

The bookcase on the second floor held various publications ... personal books read by members of the family during the 1930s.

The second floor, wrap-around porch offered view's to the gardens and to the nearby lighthouse.

Behind the main house was the carriage house which had been converted into Hemingway's writer's studio.

The interior was small but just what I expected ... except that the typewriter was placed on a table. It is a well know fact that Ernest Hemingway stood to type ... and this table would have had to be too low for a man of his height, especially with a chair in the way! (I am proud to say that I have the same sort of strange habit. I stand to use my sewing machine. Like Hemingway, it was a habit that came naturally ... from the very beginning!)

The humble, manual typewriter. I learned to type on a machine not too unlike this one!

Outside were spacious grounds ... a full acre, the largest residential tract on the island. There were walkways and tiled areas ... beautiful tiled areas!

All the trees seem to be blooming.

This is a fountain that Hemingway's second wife created when he brought home one of the old urinals from Sloppy Joe's cafe! It is now a cat fountain ... though the intelligent animals actually drink from the running water above the urinal!

There were dozens of cats lounging in the gardens ... including an all black one named Gary Cooper!

And then there is the pool ... with cost $20,000! (The Hemingways bought the entire house and grounds a few years earlier for $8,000.) Originally it was a salt water pool.

It sparkled in the sun and looked quite inviting.

Hemingway's wife had the money. She paid for the pool but he got angry (okay ... they were probably fighting over the fact that he was having an affair). He tossed his "last penny" out of his pocket saying she might as well take his "last cent". She put it into the nearby plaster. It is now under plexi-glass ... but still there by the pool!

Now far from there is the cat cemetery. There's plaque with all the names and dates of all the cats who have passed on.

Everything about the Hemingway House seemed special and I took a load of photos. They are now on a Flickr! set. Click HERE to see them! If you prefer a slideshow, click HERE.


Roberta said...

In all the years I lived in KW, I never went to the Hemingway House! Thanks for the tour!

Wanda said...

I have to admit, I've heard of Hemmingway and I believe he is a poet but I never knew he had a famous house. With cats. What a wonderful tour you took me on! I loved it. Of course, maybe it was because of all those cats running all over the place. I miss mine. The place is gorgeous. Yes, the typewriter does bring back some memories, doesn't it? But the thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was the tiling on the walkways. Did you automatically think of Udvari? I did! Even though I don't know much about it (except what you shared here) I am still very glad that you got to go to that someplace special, one of the things on your 'to do' list. And that it was even better than you imagined!

DSM said...

I've always liked those pelican tiles, too!

Doris said...

This is great! Love the cat guides... I just finished reading The Paris Wife, fiction, but about his life with first wife Hadley, and meeting Pauline Pfieffer and moving to Key West. Awesome read.