The Hemingway House: Cats And Employees Are All Fine After Hurricane Spares Key West

Hurricane Irma has come and gone through Key West, and luckily for the historic Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway once lived with his polydactyl cats, Irma left the site with little or no damage. The Hemingway House employees, the cats, and the structure were unscathed, and other than some downed trees, everything is okay. The Hemingway House sits at the highest point of Key West, but the island of Key West did not take a direct hit from Hurricane Irma as the weather service had predicted.

Everyone is breathing a big sigh of relief, including Hemingway heir and actress Mariel Hemingway, who begged Hemingway House manager Jacqui Sands to pack up the cats and leave for higher ground with the other employees who decided to ride out the storm in Key West at the Hemingway House.

Mariel Hemingway said she thought it was admirable that Sands wanted to stay put for the cats and the Hemingway House employees, but for safety, she thought everyone should evacuate.

“I think that you’re a wonderful and admirable person for trying to stay there and save the cats and save the house and all that stuff, but ultimately it’s just a house. Save the cats. Get all the cats in the car and take off.”

The Monroe County administrator wanted everyone at the Hemingway House to know that if they stayed, there might not be any emergency services.

“You might as well leave now, while you have a chance because when you dial 911, you will not get an answer.”

But all of the good thoughts and prayers did their job because the Hemingway House employees and polydactyl cats in Key West are just fine. The 55 cats who live on the property of the Hemingway House are all descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s original kitty and all of them are said to be accounted for.

Key West is said to have less destruction than the other Florida Keys, with mostly wind damage to the trees, according to TMZ. The Hemingway House sits 16 feet above sea level, which likely helped the French limestone structure — which was built in 1851 — survive the storm intact.

“We’re told Key West was in the eye wall — the strongest part of the hurricane — for 2 hours. Water has begun to recede as Irma moves north.”

Those at the Hemingway House say that there is still a lot of wind and wind damage, but the water damage to Key West is not as bad as was expected, and less than places like Miami and Sanibel Island.

Hemingway House staff members have been updating the Hemingway House Facebook page to let people know that everything is okay at the historical Hemingway property in Key West.

“As our staff member, Nicole Navarro was confirming all cats were accounted for, the cat Grace Kelly took over roll call.”

The Hemingway House employees have been including photos of the cats for people to see how they live casually amongst Hemingway’s things and furniture.


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All of Ernest Hemingway’s Key West polydactyl cats are descendants of one cat named Snow White, whom Ernest Hemingway loved, according to Jacqui Sands.

“‘That cat started his love for cats,’ Sands told the Miami Herald. ‘You can see pictures of Hemingway writing and a cat up (near) his typewriter. Cats gave him a sense of peace when he was writing.'”

Snow White was a gift to Ernest Hemingway from a local fisherman.

Are you surprised that Key West, the Ernest Hemingway House, and the polydactyl cats were spared the full wrath of Hurricane Irma?

[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]