Hemingway’s house and cats spared by Hurricane Irma

A six-toed cat at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla.
A six-toed cat at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla.
(Rob O’Neal / Associated Press)
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Hurricane Irma battered the Florida Keys over the weekend, but the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, its staffers and its 54 six-toed cats were unharmed by the storm, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Jacque Sands, the general manager of the Hemingway Home told the newspaper that the building was not severely damaged by the hurricane, and that the museum’s 10 staffers and the dozens of polydactyl felines that populate the property are safe and accounted for.

The museum’s staff made headlines after announcing that they wouldn’t heed orders to evacuate the Keys, thought to be particularly vulnerable to Irma’s wind and rain.


Mariel Hemingway, the actress and Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, had urged Sands to leave the house and seek safer shelter, the Telegraph reported.

“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,” Hemingway told Sands. “But ultimately, it’s just a house. Save the cats. Get all the cats in the car and take off.”

The Ernest Hemingway’s home was named a national historic landmark in 1968. The author lived in the house for eight years in the 1930s.

Hemingway wrote some of his best-known work while living in the house, including the novel “To Have and Have Not” and the short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” It remains a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the Keys.

Dave Gonzales, curator of the museum, told Forbes that he didn’t think the house would be damaged, despite predictions of widespread damage in the Keys. “The home is constructed of 18-inch blocks of solid limestone,” Gonzales said. “It hasn’t suffered damage in any hurricane since the day it was built in 1851.”

Gonzales said the storm had knocked out running water, Internet service and electricity to the house, but that they do have air conditioning, thanks to a generator.


He told MSNBC that the cats, who roam freely around the museum’s grounds, had sought shelter indoors as the hurricane approached.

“The cats are also accustomed to our voices and our care,” he said. “We’re comfortable with them; they’re comfortable with us. We love them. They love us. We all hung out last night together.”

Gonzales said the cats seemed to sense the hurricane’s arrival before it battered the island chain south of the Florida peninsula.

“The cats seemed to be more aware sooner of the storm coming in, and in fact when we started to round up the cats to take them inside, some of them actually ran inside, knowing it was time to take shelter,” he said. “Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”



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