Whenever we’ve visited Key West we’ve driven by the Hemingway house many times, as it is in the heart of Old Key West. I have always been curious what was behind the high walls but had never taken the tour. Julia was very anxious to see this house where one of America’s most respected authors lived and wrote for more than ten years and I was glad to finally have an excuse to see inside the house, stroll around the gardens and pet more than a few cats.
One of the more stunning and unusual features of the Hemingway property is the in-ground swimming pool, an extraordinary luxury for a residential home in 1930’s Key West. The final cost of construction of the pool in 1938 was $20,000. Even more mind-boggling is the sheer labor of digging, in solid coral, a massive hole 24 feet wide, 60 feet long, 10 feet deep at the south end, and 5 feet deep at the north end. The Hemingway pool, the only one within 100 miles in the 1930’s, was truly an architectural feat.
Few people know that, despite his protests concerning the expense, it was Ernest Hemingway himself who planned the pool. His travels as a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War, however, left oversight of the project to Pauline, and it was she who supervised the pool’s construction during 1937-1938.
Ernest did complain mightily about the growing expenses of construction costs. It is said that when he was exasperated at the expense of the venture he flung down a penny on the half-built flagstone pool patio and bellowed, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!” Even though it is not known if this story is actually true or not, there is a penny embedded in cement at the north end of the pool to memorialize Ernest’s reported outburst.