By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
Published October, 2020.
KEY WEST_ Here in this tropical paradise, featuring some of the Sunshine State's best fishing, shopping and nightlife, the top tourist attraction is instead a two-story house. Not just any house, but the house once occupied by American writing icon Ernest Hemingway.
Situated on 1.5 lush acres, Hemingway and wife Pauline lived in this French Colonial-style residence at 907 Whitehead from 1931 until 1939. Originally built in 1851 by prominent marine architect Asa Tift, the property, which had fallen into disrepair, was a wedding gift to the Hemingways from Pauline's uncle. Extensive renovations and improvements followed, and Hemingway penned some of his famous works at his writing studio, on the second floor of the carriage house.
Just as famous as its occupants is the population of polydactyl -- six-toed -- cats that roam the grounds. There are currently around 60 of the best-cared-for cats in the country -- each named after a famous celebrity -- lounging on benches, grooming themselves by the pool or sleeping on Hemingway's bed. Let's take the tour:
Photos by North Palm Beach Life
You enter off Whitehead Street in Old Town ...
Like other guests, Pam and I wore our masks and observed social distancing. Walking the lush gardens and grounds is as interesting as walking through the house.
The famous six-toed cats greet you at every turn ...
The 50 or so six-toed cats who call the Hemingway House home are said to be descended from a white six-toed cat gifted to the author by a by a ship’s captain, named Snow White. In marine lore, they are considered lucky. They are cared for a on-staff vet and each is named after a famous person. You might be petting Frank Sinatra or Marilyn Monroe.