I’ve written several times about real life homes of famous authors: Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to name a couple. But there’s another author who is famous for his home…
You know who I’m talking about, right? The home is in Key West, and the writer is Ernest Hemingway.
The novelist was born in a suburb of Chicago, and went on to spend some time in Kansas City, Italy, New York, Toronto, and Paris — writing all the while. When he left Paris, he decided he was done living in big cities, and settled in Key West with his family.
After living there for a couple years and determining it was a good long-term fit for his family, his wife’s wealthy uncle bought them the now-famous home. We should all be so lucky, right?! The year was 1931, and the place was in great disrepair, having been built in 1851. But Hemingway was able to see past the flaws, and fell in love with the architecture and stateliness of the home. He worked to restore the old building into what would become one of the most famous author’s homes, and certainly one of the more quirky ones.
In fact, based on location and features of his house, it’s a wonder Hemingway ever got any writing done!
For starters, his home had the first swimming pool in Key West. At the time, it was the only pool within 100 miles.
The home was near the bar Sloppy Joe’s, which he frequented, and his home was across the street from the Key West Lighthouse. Legend has it that he used the light of the lighthouse to find his way home after a long night of drinking.
Of course, being at the tip of the Florida Keys, his house was also located at a great U.S. launching point for boating trips, and he took full advantage, taking friends and family on frequent boating and fishing trips. Frequently, he went to Cuba.
Hemingway’s home is full of personal touches that reflect his love of traveling. You can see pictures of the interior here: http://www.hemingwayhome.com/interior/
Plus, he set up a boxing ring in his yard and paid local amateur fighters to come over and box with him. Distractions galore!
So how did Hemingway ever get any writing done?
I think there are 3 answers:
- He dedicated the early morning hours to writing.
- He had a writer’s studio on the second floor of his free-standing carriage house. This is his writing desk:
- His space was inspirational. I imagine the pool and his gardens were especially inspiring. It reminds me of the gardens on Plant Key that surround Judge Willa Carson of my Hunt for Justice Thriller Series and help her decompress from her stressful day job.
There may be one other clue we can pick up from Hemingway’s happy home life: Maybe he got so much quality writing done because he took so many breaks!
I don’t know about you, but right about now, Key West is calling my name! 😛
Diane…Hemingway’s outer life was likely an escape from his inner life. There have been a number of studies since he suicided, the one I read out of the Menniger Clinic is capitalized in this comment from the abstract.
“…Hemingway’s life is examined through a review and discussion of biographies, psychiatric literature, personal correspondence, photography, and medical records. Significant evidence exists to support the diagnoses of bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, traumatic brain injury, and probable borderline and narcissistic personality traits.” The report goes on to say “Hemingway utilized a variety of defense mechanisms, including self-medication with alcohol, a lifestyle of aggressive, risk-taking sportsmanship, and writing, in order to cope with the suffering caused by the complex comorbidity of his interrelated psychiatric disorders.”
He also had a blood disorder that prevented him from properly metabolizing iron.
Hemingway is a favorite author. For a number of reasons. I relate to him on more levels than I care to share. He wrote for the same reason that Sting creates.
I bid you peace