on August 20, 2006
The house was built by Asa Tift on the highest point on the island. It was built from coral blocks that were cut from the property. The hole in the ground where the blocks were cut from became a basement, a very rare thing to have in Florida. The house is virtually hurricane proof and the basement is always dry. Hemingway had visited Key West often before he bought this house at a tax auction for $8,000. He lived here from 1931 until 1940 with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer and their two sons. He was absent a lot. Short absences were to the bars on Duval Street. Longer ones were to Cuba. During one of those trips, Pamela had a $20,000 swimming pool installed. He was so furious at the expense, he pressed his last penny into the cement on the pool’s deck. This wasn’t the first decorating project Pamela undertook at the house. She was an editor for Vogue magazine, and tried to bring the house up to that standard. She removed all the paddle fans and installed Venetian glass Chandeliers. The marriage didn’t last and the divorce settlement favored Pamela. He did manage to get some writing done in the upper floor room of the carriage house. Books from this era include: "A Farewell to Arms", "Death in the Afternoon", "To Have and Have Not" and he started "For whom the Bell Tolls."The Hemingway boys had a cat named Snowball who had six toes on each foot. The grounds of the estate now are the home to about 63 six-toed cats. We were allowed to pet them but not pick them up. The tour started in the living room where we saw an original Picasso, a lot of hunting trophies and some unusual souvenirs from Papa Hemingway's world travels. Across the wide center hall that ran the length of the house was the dining room. Over the table was one of Pauline’s Venetian glass chandeliers. Ugly. A large side board housed the Hemingway liquor supply. From what we heard, bottles didn’t have time to get dusty. Upstairs the master bedroom is as large as the living room. A rope around the bed was to keep tourists off, but all the estates cats are welcome to nap there. The oversize bed has an unusual headboard. It is made from a gate. Above that is an original painting by Henry Faulkner depicting this house. An unusual set of chairs were also in this room. One was a birthing chair and the other was a midwife’s chair. A shaded veranda surrounded the second floor. We walked on it to get to the boys bedroom on the west side of the house. They also had a playroom and a lovely large bathroom that was the first second floor bathroom in Key West. A small gift shop is in the pool house. The house/museum is open 365 days a year and the cost was $11/adult.
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