Key West Has Gone to the Cats
Often touted as one of the century’s most prolific American novelists, Ernest Hemingway didn’t just write captivating stories — he lived one right here in Key West. Like many people, Hemingway spent winters fishing and drinking in Key West. When he wasn’t out wrangling Marlin or soaking his thoughts with a Death in the Afternoon down at Sloppy Joe’s, he spent his time penning classics like To Have and Have Not alongside his famous six-toed cats. Today, descendants of those cats still live at the Hemingway Home and Museum — one of Florida’s most prized pieces of real estate.
The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Nestled on the corner of Whitehead St. and Olivia St., construction on the two-story French Colonial was completed in 1851. At 16 feet above sea level, the home also sits on the second-highest plot in Key West, helping to protect the property from flooding.
The house, which was in disrepair, was purchased as a wedding gift for Hemingway and his second wife in 1931 for $8,000. That’s roughly $129,428 in today’s money. It was later sold in 1961, after the famed author’s death, for $80,000 (or about $699,259 when adjusted for inflation).
Today, it’s hard to pin a value on the home thanks to its storied past and the fact that it currently operates as a visitor attraction, but surrounding properties — like this 1,026 sq.-ft. 2 bed, 2 bath home or this 2 bed, 3 bath house, both just a few blocks away — are currently on the market for $1.2 million and $1.4 million respectively.
Considering Hemingway’s home was roughly 3,000 square feet and sits on a much larger lot, it’s safe to assume that the home is worth at least three or four times that figure before any celebrity value is piled on top.
The Cats That Live in Key West
The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is home to roughly 60 polydactyl cats, meaning they possess a genetic abnormality that causes them to grow an extra toe on each limb. This gives their paws the appearance that they’re wearing mittens, which is why they’re also sometimes referred to as “mitten cats.”
They were exceptionally popular with sailors for their ability to catch rodents, hence why Hemingway was first gifted one, a pure white cat named Snow White, by a ship captain. Since then, his affinity for these feisty felines grew immensely, which is why descendants of the original cats — all named after famous people at the time, a tradition that continues to this day — get to live at one of Florida’s best slices of real estate. And isn’t that just the cat’s meow?
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