Key West Resident Profiles: Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway at his desk in Key West

Today would have been Ernest Hemingway’s 115th birthday, and Key West always has a week long Hemingway Days celebration around this time of year in honor of the island’s most famous resident. The author only lived here from 1928 to 1939, but he was a legend in his own time and he definitely left a permanent imprint on the island.

Hemingway friend and fellow writer John dos Passos encouraged him to visit Key West for its interesting people and stellar fishing. After leaving Paris, Ernest and his second wife Pauline decided to visit the island. The newlyweds arrived in Cuba via an ocean liner, and from there they headed to Key West. Here they were to pick up a Ford Roadster that Pauline’s Uncle Gus purchased for them as a wedding gift.  The plan was to drive the car back to the mainland after a brief stay. But we all know that the brief stay became several years.

The Hemingways found the the delivery of the car had been delayed when they arrived at the Ford dealership on 314 Simonton Street, and the dealership insisted that they put Ernest and Pauline up at the Trev-Mor Hotel located above the showroom until the arrival of the vehicle, and the couple accepted the offer. It was two or three weeks before the car arrived, and during those weeks Ernest worked feverishly each morning completing what would be one of his most well known works, A Farewell to Arms.

The island appealed to Ernest because living in Key West was almost like living in another country. “It’s the best place I’ve ever been anytime, anywhere, flowers, tamarind trees, guava trees, coconut palms…” After renting apartments around the island for a few years, the couple bought what is now known as The Hemingway Home, located at 907 Whitehead Street, in 1931. They paid a measly $8,000 in back taxes to the city for the deed to the house with money given to them by Pauline’s wealthy Uncle Gus.

While living on the island, Pauline gave birth to the couple’s two sons together. In 1928 Patrick was born, and in 1931 Gregory was born.

Hemingway wrote prolifically during his time in Key West, publishing Death in the Afternoon, Winner Take Nothing, Green Hills of Africa, and several short stories. Surprisingly, there is only novel in which he writes about Key West, To Have and Have Not.

While he did make expeditions in this time to Africa and other places to gather material for his writing, Hemingway certainly enjoyed the Key West lifestyle. There was ample fishing, boxing, cock fighting and drinking at the local watering hole, Sloppy Joe’s.  Hemingway also made some life long friends on the island, including Charles Thompson, Joe Russell, and Eddie Saunders.

However, living in Key West had its drawbacks too. When the city mayor wanted to put the Hemingway’s house on the tourism map, they declined. But the mayor added it to the map anyway. And the gawkers grew from a few to many, prompting the Hemingways to out up the wall that now surrounds the compound so that they could keep their privacy.

In 1936 Hemingway met writer Martha Gellhorn in Sloppy Joe’s Bar while she was on vacation with her family. Ernest, always falling in love with beautiful women, eventually left Pauline and Key West and made Martha his third wife. The new couple ended up traveling to Europe to cover the wars and Ernest moved away from his beloved Key West to another tropical island not far away, Cuba. And even though he never again called Key West home, he would make periodic stops to the island utilizing his home on Whitehead Street much like a hotel until his death in 1961.

For more information on Hemingway and his life in Key West, I suggest reading Stuart McIver’s Hemingway’s Key West, James McLendon’s Papa Hemingway in Key West, and Michael Reynolds’ Hemingway: the 1930’s.

To see what is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West or any of the Florida Keys, be sure to read my  restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge

Key West Celebrates Ernest Hemingway Days July 2014

Ernest Hemingway Key West

Island Genn posing next to a sculpture of Ernest Hemingway in Key West, FL

July is here and with it brings the annual Hemingway Days celebration which takes place around the famed author’s July 21st birthday. This year the celebration of Key West’s most famous resident, affectionately known as Papa, will be held from July 15 – 20. Even if you are not a Hemingway aficionado, you will enjoy the way Key West celebrates this consummate athlete and adventurer that also happened to be one of the most distinguished authors in modern times.

While Hemingway owned the home on Whitehead Street until his death in 1961 he had not lived here since the 1930’s. But his island antics which included fishing, boxing, drinking, and of sours writing left an indelible mark on the island. Even after all these years we are celebrating this man who was larger than life. Hemingway would be happy!

Below is the daily schedule for Hemingway Days Festival 2014. But you can always ask one of the many Papa Hemingway look-a-likes that will descent upon the island what is happening. You will probably get a few interesting stories out of them as well!

If you cannot make it to the celebration this year, plan on it for next year as it is an annual event. Or, if July does not fall in your vacation time, you can still come down to Key West anytime of year to partake in some deep sea fishing that Papa so loved, visit the Hemingway House and Museum, or hang in at Sloppy Joe’s and Captain Tony’s.

DAILY
TUESDAY, JULY 15
  • 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “Hemingway in Key West” museum exhibition. Explore Ernest Hemingway’s life in Key West, including fishing adventures, and view rare Hemingway photographs and memorabilia. Custom House Museum, 281 Front St. Mention Hemingway Days upon entering and receive discounted admission. Exhibition continues throughout Hemingway Days and beyond. For info, visit kwahs.org.
  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tennessee Williams in Key West Exhibit. Learn about playwright Tennessee Williams’ longtime residence on the island while exploring his beliefs and legacy. Highlights include personal photographs of Williams at home with his partner and friends, first-edition plays and books, a typewriter he used in Key West and much more. 513 Truman Ave. behind the Key West Business Guild Visitor Center. Free admission; donations accepted. Exhibition continues throughout Hemingway Days and beyond. For info, visit twkw.org.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16
  • 4 p.m. Final registration for the Key West Marlin Tournament. Anglers compete for $50,000 in guaranteed cash prizes for targeting marlin, spearfish, dolphin, tuna and wahoo. Conch Republic Seafood Co., 631 Greene St. For info, visit keywestmarlin.com.
  • 5:30 p.m. Meet the “Papas.” Get to know the contestants and previous winners of the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. Attractions typically include a cash bar and Hemingway-esque hors d’oeuvres. Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, 4 Charles St. For info, visit smokintunasaloon.com.
  • 6-8 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament captains meeting, auction and raffle. Conch Republic Seafood Co.
  • 7:30-10 p.m. “Voices, Places, Inspirations.” This evening of readings and presentations features authors Michael Haskins, Steven Hull, Mandy Bolen Miles, Terry Schmida and David Sloan, as well as actor/playwright/author Brian Gordon Sinclair. Presented by Literacy Volunteers of America-Monroe County, the event also includes a “meet the authors” reception. Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, 601 Front St. Free admission; suggested parking in Mallory Square lot. For information, visit hemingwaydays.net.
THURSDAY, JULY 17
  • 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament’s first day of fishing. For info, visit keywestmarlin.com.
  • 9 a.m. Coffee and Donuts with the “Papas.” Join past Look-Alike Contest winners and current competitors for a lighthearted “coffee break” at Cypress House, a historic inn at 601 Caroline St. Visit cypresshousekw.com.
  • 4-6 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament weigh-in. Conch Republic Seafood Co. docks.
  • 5 p.m. Key West Poetry Guild: “The Poems of Papa.” The Key West Poetry Guild presents a reading and celebration of Ernest Hemingway’s poems at the Blue Heaven restaurant, a site where the author once refereed neighborhood boxing matches. Blue Heaven, 729 Thomas St. Free admission.
  • 6 p.m. Hemingway Look-Alike Society scholarship presentations. The society is to announce the winners of its annual scholarships for Florida Keys students. Onstage at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St. For info, visit sloppyjoes.com.
  • 6:15 p.m. Canada’s “Hemingway On Stage” Award Presentation. Brian Gordon Sinclair is to present the “Hemingway On Stage” award for extraordinary dedication to the festival. Onstage at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, 201 Duval St.
  • 6:30 p.m. Sloppy Joe’s 34th annual “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, first preliminary round, to be judged by former contest winners. Sloppy Joe’s Bar. $35 entry fee. Free to watch. For look-alike event info, visit sloppyjoes.com.
  • 6:30-8 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament cocktail party. Festivities for anglers include a Key West-style pig roast. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Grand Key Resort, 3990 S. Roosevelt Blvd. Free to tournament participants.
FRIDAY, JULY 18
  • 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament’s second day of fishing.
  • 1:30 p.m. “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Fish-Off. Cheer your favorites as the “Papas” compete in this dockside catch-and-release challenge using traditional “Cuban yo-yos.” Conch Republic Seafood Co. docks. Free to watch.
  • 4-6 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament weigh-in. Conch Republic Seafood Co. docks.
  • 6:30-8 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament dockside cocktail party and fish fry. Conch Republic Seafood Co. Free to tournament participants.
  • 6:30 p.m. Sloppy Joe’s 34th annual “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, second preliminary round, to be judged by former contest winners. Sloppy Joe’s Bar. $35 entry fee. Free to watch.
  • 8 p.m. Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition winners announcement and reception. This literary highlight takes place at Hemingway’s first Key West residence, Casa Antigua. Events include a presentation on Casa Antigua’s history by owner Tom Oosterhoudt and a reading of the winning short story. 314 Simonton St. Free admission. For info, visit shortstorycompetition.com.
  • 8:30-11 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament Party with the Drambuie Team. Enjoy an exuberant island-style gathering for tournament participants at Key West’s popular Durty Harry’s at Rick’s, 202 Duval St.
SATURDAY, JULY 19
  • 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament’s third day of fishing.
  • Noon to 9 p.m. Caribbean Street Fair presented by Helpline of the Florida Keys. Much of Duval Street is closed to vehicular traffic and transformed into an open-air island market with arts, crafts, jewelry, tropical clothing and food. From noon to 3 p.m., seafood fans are invited to enjoy the inaugural Bubba Cuzzy Shrimp-Off Competition. For info, call 305-292-8445 or visit keyshelpline.org.
  • Noon Photos with “Papas.” Hemingway look-alikes provide a photo opportunity for fans. Greene Street outside Sloppy Joe’s. For info, visit sloppyjoes.com.
  • Noon-2 p.m. Key West First Legal Rum tasting. Sample chef-distilled rum from Key West’s only distillery. Donations are suggested to benefit the Hemingway Look-Alike Society scholarship fund. Greene Street outside Sloppy Joe’s. For more information, visit keywestlegalrum.com.
  • 1 p.m. Running of the Bulls. This wacky event is sponsored by Sloppy Joe’s Bar and features past “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest winners dressed in their Pamplona best — and a breed of “bull” found only in Key West. The fun begins and ends on Greene Street outside Sloppy Joe’s. For info, visit sloppyjoes.com.
  • 1:30 p.m. Hemingway’s Birthday Party. Proud “Papas” are to celebrate the 115th anniversary of Ernest’s July 21 birth with a pre-birthday cake and other attractions outside Sloppy Joe’s. Visit sloppyjoes.com.
  • 3-5 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament weigh-in. Conch Republic Seafood Co. docks.
  • 3-7 p.m. Malibu Rum Hemingway 5k Sunset Run and Paddleboard Race registration. Register and pick up race packets for the popular run and paddleboard challenge. Southernmost Hotel, 1319 Duval St. $45 adult entry fee for either race ($50 on race day). For info, visit keywestspecialevents.com.
  • 6 p.m. Lazy Dog Paddleboard Race. Competitors follow a 3-mile Atlantic Ocean course that begins and ends at Key West’s Southernmost Beach, 1405 Duval St. on the ocean. For more information and registration, visit keywestspecialevents.com.
  • 6:30 p.m. Key West Marlin Tournament awards banquet and silent auction. Cocktails and silent auction are set for 6:30, with the dinner and awards presentations to follow at 7:30. Open to tournament participants and their guests only. Westin Key West Resort, 245 Front St.
  • 6:30 p.m. Sloppy Joe’s 34th annual “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, final round, to be judged by former contest winners. Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Free to watch.
  • 7:30 p.m. Malibu Rum Hemingway 5k Sunset Run. Racers start at the Southernmost Point in the continental United States at Whitehead and South streets, and proceed through Old Town Key West. An awards party is scheduled after the race poolside at the Southernmost Hotel. For info and registration, visit keywestspecialevents.com.
SUNDAY, JULY 20
  • 11 a.m. Sloppy Joe’s Hemingway Days Arm Wrestling Championship. Registration is set for 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and the contest begins at noon. Prizes await winners in seven weight categories. Sloppy Joe’s Bar. $5 entry fee; free to watch. For info, visit sloppyjoes.com.

To see what else is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.For more information about Key West or Ernest Hemingway feel free to Email Me! And check out www.gotothekeys.com for lots of island information including how to book a fishing charter!

And for restaurant reviews check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our restaurant reviews on www.gotothekeys.com.

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

Key West: A Writer’s Paradise

Ernest Hemingway Key West

Island Genn posing next to a sculpture of Ernest Hemingway in Key West, FL

Ernest Hemingway‘s name is synonymous with Key West. He may be our most well known writer ever to have called the island home, but there are plenty of other that have or still do call Key West home. Names like Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, John Hersey, James Merrill, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur, John Malcolm Brinnin, Alison Lurie, Robert Stone, Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, Philip Burton, Judy Blume, Nancy Friday, Harry Mathews, Marie Chaix, Shel Silverstein, Wilfrid Sheed, David Kaufelt, Ann Beattie, Jimmy Buffett and Philip Caputo, among others. While some houses are open to the public, most are now privately owned by normal folks, so please do not go knocking on their doors for a tour!!!

When Hemingway first arrived in Key West with his second wife, Pauline, back in 1928, he stayed at what is now known as Casa Antigua located on Simonton Street. The building is currently a gift shop offering tours of their gardens. After renting several apartments, the Hemingway’s finally found their perfect home and purchased the Spanish Colonial at 907 Whitehead Street which had been built by famed Key West wrecker Asa Tift. Other famous Hemingway haunts include Sloppy Joe’s Bar, originally located at 428 Greene Street, now the home of Captain Tony’s Saloon. And of course, the well know restaurant, Blue Heaven on Petronia Street was once the boxing ring Hemingway had to move from his yard once he built his pool. Each July, locals celebrate Hemingway’s life in Key West with the Hemingway Days Celebration which includes events such as a Hemingway look-a-like contest, arm wrestling competitions, a Marlin Fishing Tournament, and a writing competition directed by Hemingway’s granddaughter Lorian.

 In 1941 Tennessee Williams began visiting the island. And in 1949 he purchased a home at 1431 Duncan Street in which he resided in for the rest of his days. The house is now privately owned and not opened to the public, but it is a standout with its red shutters. The acclaimed playwright’s “The Rose Tattoo” was turned into a film and shot in Key West in 1956. And in 1980, The Florida Keys Community College opened a theater and named it after their most famous play writing resident. The College is located at 5901 College Road on Stock Island, and plays host to many concerts and plays. Williams was also baptized a Catholic at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea located on Truman Avenue.

 In 1934, Robert Frost first visited Key West, and he visited each winter from 1945 to 1960. There was a small cottage behind the home of local resident Jessie Porter that Frost would stay at, and hence the cottage has been dubbed the Robert Frost Cottage. Until recently the home located at 410 Caroline Street was open to the public for tours. Frost served as the poet laureate of the United States from 1958 to 1959, and he happens to be the poet that penned my favorite poem of all time, “The Road Not Taken”. I was lucky enough to tour the home once long ago; unfortunately, I did not get any photos.

Jesse Porter also hosted several other artists and writers at her home including Wallace Stevens, Archibald MacLeish, and Thornton Wilder.

Other notable authors include James Leo Herlihy who penned Midnight Cowboy and once owned a small house located on 709 Baker’s Lane and Tom McGuane, author of Ninety-two in the Shade, who resided at 123-125 Ann Street, 1011 Von Phister Street, and 416 Elizabeth Street. Both of these novels were turned into Hollywood films.

Elizabeth Bishop, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet lived at 624 White Street from 1938 to 1946. But before she purchased her home, Elizabeth first rented an apartment at 529 Whitehead Street in the 1930’s. After she sold her house she lived for a short time in an apartment located at 611 Frances Street.

And another Pulitzer Prize winning poet, James Merrill, lived at 702 Elizabeth Street. Funny that Elizabeth Bishop didn’t live on Elizabeth Street.

Philip Caputo, an author and journalist, lived at 1101 Casa Marina Court and frequented the now closed Full Moon Saloon.

The Windsor Lane Compound of houses near Solares Hill, which is the highest point of the island, was once home to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Richard Wilbur, as well as famous authors John Hersey, John Ciardi, and Ralph Ellison.

On William Street is the once time house and writing studio of Shel Silverstein. Look for the Greek revival style of architecture to locate which house was his.

The Casa Marina Resort located on Reynolds Street and the La Concha Crowne Plaza located on Duval Street are both popular hotels that many writers including Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens have stayed.

And who hasn’t heard of Margaritaville? Jimmy Buffet’s store and restaurant is located at 500 Duval Street. The songwriter once lived in a house on Waddell Street, right next to Louie’s Backyard as well as several other houses on the island. And his one time recording studio is located at the Historic Seaport. 

Famed kids author Judy Blume who wrote one of my favorite childhood books, Freckle Juice, currently owns a house in Key West on Flagler Avenue.

Every winter in January, writers flock to the island for the annual Literary Seminar.  Workshops are given by notable authors to prospective writers as well as avid readers. The theme changes yearly, with the theme for 2014 being “The Dark Side”.

If you plan on visiting the island yourself, maybe you will find the inspiration to write too.

To see what is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West or any of the Florida Keys, be sure to read my  restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

 

Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge

Casa Antigua and Ernest Hemingway

Pelican-Poop-Shoppe-Casa-Antigua-Ernest-Hemingway

The outside of the Pelican Poop Shoppe, also known as Casa Antigua, was the very first place that Ernest Hemingway stayed when he initially came to Key West back in 1928.

If you are like most people, you know that Ernest Hemingway called Key West home for many years. But did you know what drew him to Key West in the first place?

Hemingway friend and fellow writer John dos Passos encouraged him to visit the island for its interesting people and great fishing. And that is just what Ernest and his second wife Pauline decided to do on their way back to the states after living abroad in Paris. The newlyweds arrived in Cuba via an ocean liner, and from there they headed to Key West. Here they were to pick up a Ford Roadster that Pauline’s Uncle Gus purchased for them as a wedding gift.  The plan was to drive the car back to the mainland after a brief stay. But divine providence turned what was supposed to be a quick visit to the island into a very, very extended stay.

Upon arriving at the Ford dealership on 314 Simonton Street, the Hemingway’s found the the delivery of the car had been delayed. The dealership insisted that they put Ernest and Pauline up at the Trev-Mor Hotel located above the showroom until the arrival of the vehicle, and the couple accepted the offer. It was two or three weeks before the car arrived, and during those weeks Ernest worked feverishly each morning completing what would be one of his most well known works, A Farewell to Arms.

Today, the building that was once a Ford dealership and showroom is now called Casa Antigua. It is a private residence upstairs. But downstairs houses the Pelican Poop Shoppe that sells trinkets to island visitors. And for a few dollars you can visit the gardens out back that Ernest supposedly roamed during his stay here. This building is number six on the Key West Historical Markers Tour.

To see what is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West or any of the Florida Keys, be sure to read my  restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

 

Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge