Hemingway’s Cuban Home: Finca Vigia

Happy Spring all!  A few photos and background about Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he lived from 1940-1960.

It appeared that things were opening up in Cuba and that there might one day be actual access to Hemingway’s home Finca Vigia outside Havana. The name means Lookout Farm. Since the new election, it is unclear if this will happen.

Regardless, Hemingway had over 10 acres and a rundown house that was found by his then wife, Martha Gellhorn. It was his home from approximately 1940 to 1960. He had a staff usually of 3 people to help in the house, drive, work in the gardens. The vegetation was lush and he and Martha brought the pool and tennis court back to former glory.

Even after the divorce from Martha Gellhorn, he kept the farm as his residence and his new wife Mary Welsh moved in and became the mistress of the house.

Mary’s tower for the cats and writing

When asked why he didn’t live in America, Hemingway noted that he could boat and fish year- round in Cuba, always had a breeze, fantastic food and drink, and a welcoming and warm people. He indicated that if he found a similar place in America, he would move there.

60′ living room

Ultimately he had to move. Although Castro did no

Martha, discoverer of the Finca

t force him out, the anti-Americanism was everywhere. Further, when he came to visit in the United States in 1960, the FBI told him he could not return. There then ensued great drama in trying to get his personal items and book manuscripts out; his animals re-settled; and to provide care for his staff left behind. It was a devastating blow to him although he did anticipate that he would have to leave Cuba at some point. He had a small apartment in New York but after not being able to return to Cuba lived much of the year in Idaho in the house in which he died.

Hem drinks with Boise

Finca Vigia is presently in the midst of renovations. The goal is to keep it as it was when Hemingway was there but with preservation. In a humid climate, much deteriorates relatively quickly and the restoration project is afoot.

After Hemingway’s death, Mary donated the house to the Cuban government and the restoration began in 2005 by the Finca Vigia Foundation working with the Cuban government. The house itself is in San Francisco de Paula, a modest town 9 miles outside Havana. The Cuban people have always respected Hemingway’s choice to live among the people he fished with. The house was built in 1886 and was purchased by Hemingway in 1940 for $12,500.

He wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea primarily while living there. A Moveable Feast was also written there. After Hemingway’s death in 1961, the Cuban government took ownership of the property and Mary Hemingway agreed to that appropriation.

Please enjoy the photos of his home.

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Recent Reviews of Hemingway’s Key West Home and MuseumTour

Happy Holidays to all!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I live in CT so dreaming of warm locales comes naturally at this time of year.  In case you are thinking of a Southern trip, may I suggest considering one of our territories (Puerto Rico if available and utilities restored by the time of your trip, the U.S. Virgin Islands, any of the beleaguered Caribbeans which rely on tourism to survive) including in particular our own Key West.

I thought for this post I would highlight the value of a trip to Hemingway’s house in Key West. I just randomly copied the most recent reviews on Trip Advisor, posted below. Hemingway bought the place on Whitehead Street – well actually his wife Pauline’s Uncle put up the money to buy the place – after Hem left his first wife, Hadley, and

 

The Finca in Cuba. compare to the below Key west house
Pauline at Paris Vogue

married his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Pauline hailed from a wealthy St. Louis family, which made money in pharmaceuticals and her Uncle Gus was very generous to his family. Hemingway lived there from approximately 1930 to 1940, when he left Pauline for Martha Gellhorn and bought the place in Cuba.

 

the house in keywest. compare to the Cuban home above

It was on the advice of John Dos Passos, a fellow member of the “Lost Generation” of ex patriate artists and writers populating Paris during the 1920s, that Hemingway was first prompted to visit Key West.  They were delayed in their journey due to car trouble.

John Dos Passos

He and Pauline rented a home for a few weeks waiting for the car and it was there that Hemingway continued his Paris habits of writing during the early mornings hoping to finish the war novel he’d begun. He then would explore his surroundings in the afternoons. The Hemingways spent three weeks waiting for their car, and it was during this very brief three-week interlude that Ernest finished the partially autobiographical novel about the First World War, “A Farewell To Arms.”

Swimming with Pauline

Both Ernest and Pauline grew to love Key West and its inhabitants, and soon decided to look for a permanent residence. After two seasons in Key West, Pauline’s Uncle Gus purchased the house on Whitehead Street for them in 1931.

Hem’s Dining room in Key West
Dining room in Cuba. Much more rustic

 

Key West

The home was in great disrepair when the Hemingways took ownership (as was the Cuban home when Hemingway bought it), but both Ernest and Pauline could see beyond the rubble and ruin, and appreciated the grand architecture and stateliness of the home. The massive restoration and remodeling they undertook in the early 1930’s turned the home into the National Historical Landmark that thousands of tourists visit and enjoy today.

Catherine and Frederic the remake

A unique and extraordinary feature of the grounds is the pool, built in 1937-38, at the staggering cost for the time of $20,000. It was the first in-ground pool in Key West, and the only pool within 100 miles. The exhorbitant construction costs once prompted Hemingway to take a penny from his pocket, press it into the wet cement of the surrounding patio, and announce jokingly, “Here, take the last penny I’ve got!” Tourists are invited to look for the penny, still embedded between flagstones at the north end of the pool.

Hem and Pauline

It’s a more elegant place than the place in Cuba, had much more Pauline in it than her husband. It had some funny quirks though. There also is a urinal there that Hemingway salvaged from a bar that was being taken down and he had a sentimental attachment to the number of times he’d used it. I believe it is now used to house plants.

Anyway, if you’re in that vicinity it’s well worth a look. Best and happy holiday season, Christine

Recent reviews of the Hemingway House

the house is a tribute to the late author, whose exploits during his life are legendary. The tour guides shared several interesting stories about Hemingway and his various wives/mistresses. The cats were adorable (and I’m not a cat person). Plenty of interesting photos and examples…More

Fun time, great tour guide. Not a huge Hemingway fan but would recommend a visit to all. Cats are very aloof.

3) Where do I start?

The Ernest Hemingway tour is a must for anyone visiting Key West! Whether you have read all of his books or none, it really doesn’t matter. The history of his house and life unfold eloquently and in a fun manner by the tour guides. They make this tour what it is, in my opinion by bringing the homes history and Hemingway’s history to life. And it is nice that you can manage the walking tour in under an hour, which leaves time to walk about the Hemingway grounds if you would like. Actual descendants of Hemingway’s cats are on premises! It was a fun and informative tour that I feel is a must visiting Key West!

 

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d130377-r539518496-The_Ernest_Hemingway_Home_and_Museum-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html#

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Cuba, Hemingway, and President Obama

The old man and the sea
The old man and the sea
I love Cuba
I love Cuba

 As we all know, President Obama made an historic visit to Cuba recently as the U.S. and Cuba began to normalize relations. Patrick Hemingway,  grandson of writer Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway also had s a son named Patrick, his last surviving child. This is Gregory’s son, Patrick), believes that his grandfather who lived on a farm called The Finca Vigia for 20 years, would have supported the recent change in relations between Cuba and the United States “He is considered, not only a cultural icon here, but one of Cuba’s own,” he said of his grandfather.

 When talking with Cubans about the recent visit of President Obama, most Cubans agree with Patrick Hemingway when he noted that he felt Cuba had a bright future. They also viewed the President’s visit as a symbolic statement of commitment to the evolution of that relationship. Nothing adds to the picture that Cuba is moving toward a more open society and rejoining the world than the performance of the Rolling Stones on Friday, March 25th in Havana.  While the Pope asked for a postponement as it was Good Friday, the show did go on as originally planned.

Hem in Cuba
Hem in Cuba
Cuban Jazz
Cuban Jazz

 

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Biopic: Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (Movie)

A trailer has been unveiled for the Papa: Hemingway in Cuba movie. This biopic features the story of a friendship shared between Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, and Ed Myers, a journalist.

Hemingway in Cuba
Hemingway in Cuba

I just viewed the trailer and it looks good to me. It echoes Hemingway’s relationship with his great friend, Aaron Hotchner, although this relationship started later in life. Hemingway, for all of his flaws, often was welcoming to young writers and willing to share his personal time and experiences generously.

Please take a look if you have time. Best, Christine

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Movie to be made of “Across the River and Into the Woods”

Plierce Brosnan will bring a little-known Ernest Hemingway novel to the screen, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

adriana and gun

EH2841P nd. Ernest Hemingway and Adriana Ivancich with stuffed lion. Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Copyright unknown in the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
EH2841P nd.
Ernest Hemingway and Adriana Ivancich with stuffed lion. Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Copyright unknown in the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

adriana on boat

hem and her

Across the River and Into the Woods was one of Hemingway’s poorly received books.  It was written while Hemingway was infatuated with Adriana Ivancich who was the prototype for Renata.  It still sold decently and at one point, there was talk of a movie with a very young Sophia Loren as Renata and Gary Cooper as the Colonel.  I liked the book but did not find Renata to be an interesting character or sufficient to draw the intense attention of the Colonel who clearly was partially based on Hemingway himself.  Should be interesting.Hem and Adriana, far right

Adriana type
Adriana type
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Restoring the Finca Vigia outside Havana : Work to Begin

#HemingwayFincavigia

#Hemingwaycuba

Havana, Cuba (CNN)Ernest Hemingway’s home near Havana is expected to soon receive an infusion of badly needed building supplies from the United States.

 

Before it is too late, actual collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba is happening regarding the restoration of Hemingway’s beloved Cuban home. He lived there for about twenty years. As mentioned in previous posts, he and Mary left many papers and mementos when they were not allowed to return. Apparently, there remain many writings/notes of historical and literary interest even after Mary was permitted to remove some of them  post-Hemingway’s death.

Finca Vigia
Finca Vigia
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Film about Hemingway and his boat Captain, Gregorio Fuentes

Hemingway’s boat played an integral role in his story, and now its sister ship is in South Florida and ready to make her film debut.

 

EH 8124P Ernest Hemingway fishing, Key West, 1928. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
EH 8124P Ernest Hemingway fishing, Key West, 1928.
Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

 

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What’s Percolating in the Hemingway World?

Mariel
Mariel

I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds and google alerts that keep me posted on all things Hemingway. So here are a few random developments.

1) Mariel Hemingway is producing a movie of Hemingway’s last book, A Moveable Feast, finished after his death and published initially in 1964. (Hemingway died in 1961).

2) Andy Garcia is wrapping up his movie about Hemingway and his boat captain, Gregorio Fuentes.

3) Coming out in the Fall is a possible Oscar contender called GENIUS, about

Max perkins
Max perkins

Hemingway’s editor Maxwell Perkins (played by Colin Firth) and Tom Wolfe (played by Michael Fassbinder).  Dominic West plays Hemingway.  All Brits playing Americans.cadillacinhavana

4) The Cuban government is working on how much access to permit to the Finca Vigia. Right now, the public can peer through windows but cannot go in.

5)Thomasville is having a Hemingway Outdoor furniture collection.

6) A man named Robert Wheeler spent a winter four years ago in Paris, retracing Hemingway’s time there in the early 1920s. He took a camera. And now he’s publishing a book, due out April 7. I can’t wait to se2014-06-16 07.07.40e it.

Furniture from the Thomasville Hemingway collection
Furniture from the Thomasville Hemingway collection

7) Before announcing the winner of the 2015 PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction, Beacon Press director Helene Atwan, administrator of the prize, made note of a major gift from the Hemingway family. The cash prize attached to the award was doubled this year to $20,000. Patrick, Hemingway’s remaining son, was on hand to assist in distributing the awards which took place at the JFK Library, home of he Hemingway Collection.

Patrick Hemingway 2013
Patrick Hemingway 2013, JFK LIBE
Paris 1927
Paris 1927
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Possible New Filming Location in Cuba

Hemingway's livingroom
Vigia Finca, Cuba. Hemingway’s Living Room, 60 feet long.

One Stateside filmmaker who recently took advantage of Cuba’s retro look is Bob Yari, who spent a month shooting his Ernest Hemingway biopic “Papa” entirely on location in and near Havana in March and April of 2014.

Cuban Jazz
Cuban Jazz
Pug
I’m a Cuban Pug
The old man and the sea
written in Cuba about Cuba
Close up
A Pensive Hemingway

Now that Cuba has opened a bit, more opportunities for on location filming is possible. The new biopic about Hem’s declining years was just filmed and it sounds like the producer was able to use the actual Cuban locations. However, more of this should be possible in the future.

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Was Hemingway Bi-polar?

FROM THE moment Ernest Hemingway saw Finca Vigia ( Lookout Farm) outside Havana in 1939, it became his home in the deepest sense.

The above article discusses Hemingway’s time in Cuba, self-medication perhaps with alcohol, and his love for his Cuban home. Very interesting. Best, Christine

 

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