Historic Homes of Writers

I recently spent more than a week in Key West, Florida.  A writer friend told me, half seriously, that he was “jealous of your pilgrimage” and another said, “Cheers to Papa!”  And, yes, while I was there I made a visit to the Earnest Hemingway Home and Museum.

Hemingway's Desk

A view of the desk in Hemingway’s writing room.

Although inundated with tourists, the place is kept in excellent repair and simply dripping with tropical grandeur.  Most importantly, for me, the writing room above the shed is decorated in a manner that it might have been at the time when he was there writing To Have and Have Not.

The rest of the house is more of a record of the tastes of his second wife (and rightly so, considering her family money paid for it and that she continued to live there after he’d left for Cuba with his third wife).  Still, it’s neat to see, especially all those mutant cats.

Of course, I have no idea what the house really looked like in the 1930s.  For example, they tell you on the tour that Hemingway kept a boxing ring in the backyard until his wife replaced it with a swimming pool while he was in Spain with his mistress.  But the house itself is gorgeous, and steeped in history.  And all in all, I enjoyed it just as much as any of the historic homes of writers that I’ve visited.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed visiting writer’s historic residences.  Growing up in the Valley of the Moon, I used to visit Jack London’s Wolf House, or what’s left of it, all the time.

I’ve also been to the homes of Russian writers.  And in Massachusetts I made sure visit to the Poe House and took in the Longfellow House-Washington Headquarters, which is really an amazing place to tour.

All these houses are very different.  The only thing they have in common being that a writer did his work there, and it’s nifty to get an idea of where they sat and what they saw out the window.

Here’s the complete list of writer’s homes I’ve visited in the order that I visited them:

  • Jack London – Sonoma, California
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky – St. Petersberg, Russia
  • Dashiell Hammett’s apartment – San Francisco, California
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Edgar Allen Poe – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Leo Tolstoy – Moscow, Russia
  • Earnest Hemingway – Key West, Florida

Update: I also visited The Borges family’s Palermo homestead.  You can’t go inside, which is why I didn’t remember.  (I was reminded by a fun article at Flavor Wire.)


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