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  • Writer's pictureMike Bechtol

Hemingway Home - A House With an Oddly Placed Urinal

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

Key West's Ernest Hemingway was certainly a fascinating man. He was bold, adventurous, rough and tough. He enjoyed a fight and he enjoyed the liquor. He also was a very caring man and is credited with saving lives. His personal life was as colorful as his classic novels. He was am adventurous globetrotter, but Key West was his favorite... and the town has embraced their native son with adoration and reverence.

Hemingway's Key West Home is not huge, but the grounds occupy a rather large chunk of Key West green space. This is one of Key West's signature attractions. The tour is less than an hour, and visitors are free to explore the home and grounds on their own. You'll learn about this great author and his relationship with Key West. The Hemingway Home is known for its six and seven-toed polydactyl cats. Over 60 feline descendants of Hemingway's pets freely roam the grounds. Some are shy... some are friendly and welcome a little petting... but don't touch their feet. The Hemingway Home is also one of the best vantage points for viewing and photographing the Key West Lighthouse, located in the lot across the street.

According to a 1976 Palm Beach Post article , Hemingway dragged a urinal home late one night from Sloppy Joe's bar... a favorite drinking spot. Hemingway's buddy, Joe Russell was remodeling the bar, and Hemingway appropriated the old urinal to use as a watering trough for his 50+ cats. His wife Pauline begrudgingly went along with the idea, but glued fancy tiles around its perimeter to disguise the urinal's origin.

The Infamous Urinal

Said to have cost twice as much as the house itself, the in-ground swimming pool was installed in 1938 and became the only pool in Key West at the time. Hemingway himself had planned the pool, but because of his role as a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, his wife Pauline was left to oversee the project. He complained mightily about the mounting costs (about $20,000 in all), leading to an outburst toward involving his "last penny", now embedded in the poolside cement.

The Hemingway Home is filled with many more oddities and stories of this colorful Key West icon. The admission cost is fairly reasonable . The adults will love the history and quirkiness. The kids will love the cats.

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