Given the number of notable people who have lived on Key West, it’s not surprising that many of their homes have been preserved. These are two of my favorites.
Ernest Hemingway first came to Key West in 1928 with his new wife, Pauline. They fell in love with the place, and in 1931, Pauline’s wealthy uncle, Gus, bought them a house. Built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial style, it occupies one of the largest residential plots on the island. While there aren’t as many original furnishings and artifacts as one might hope for, Hemingway’s story is amply filled in with photographs, as well as excellent talks by the guides. One feature that I enjoyed seeing was the pool. The first in-ground pool on Key West, it cost an astronomical (for then) $20,000. When construction neared completion, Hemingway pulled a penny from his pocket, stuck it in the wet cement and declared, “Here, take the last penny I’ve got!” It’s still there. The other legacy is the population of polydactyl cats (born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of their paws) descended from Hemingway’s.
The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
907 Whitehead Street
In 1946, President Harry Truman’s doctor ordered him to take a break. A Navy friend recommended the home of the base commander at the naval station on Key West, who happened to be away. Truman complied — and returned 10 more times. A major restoration began in 1988, and over the course of the project, much of the house has been given new life, including the original fabrics and wallpapers. Most of the furnishings are also original, including the poker table that workmen on the base crafted for the president. Knowing that his wife disapproved of his nightly games, they constructed an overlay top, so that during the day, she wouldn’t have to witness the scene of the previous night’s crimes.
Truman Little White House
111 Front Street