Key West, Fla.
Dedicated: March 14, 2010
Partners: Monroe County Public Library, Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Friends of The Monroe County Public Library of Key West, Florida, Inc.
The dedication of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum as a Literary Landmark was the finale of “One Island One Book,” a program created by the Monroe County Library’s Key West Branch. The program focused on To Have and Have Not, the novel Hemingway wrote in Key West and set on the island. It is his only novel set in the United States. Hemingway is credited with pioneering a new, plainspoken style of writing. He was awarded Pulitzer and Nobel prizes.
Les Standiford, director of the creative writing program at Florida International University, spoke at the Literary Landmark dedication, along with Dave Gonzalez, the Hemingway Home’s events manager, and Kris Neihouse, circulation librarian at Monroe County Public Library’s Key West branch, who created the “One Island One Book” program.
Standiford discussed Key West’s literary legacy and Hemingway’s place within it. Standiford then read from the opening of his book “Last Train to Paradise,” which describes the 1935 hurricane that destroyed the Overseas Railway. Hemingway was in Key West, 80 miles south of the center of the storm, but traveled immediately afterwards to Islamorada to help with rescue efforts. He later wrote a scathing article, which ran under the title “Who Murdered the Vets?” about inadequate preparations to protect World War I veterans who were in Islamorada working on a New Deal highway project. Hundreds of them were killed in the storm.
“This is a recognition long overdue,” Standiford said. “There are a number of other literary landmarks in Key West, but none dedicated to Hemingway.” This was the eighth Literary Landmark in Key West.
Hemingway lived at the home at 907 Whitehead St., in the heart of the island’s Old Town historic district, from 1931 to 1939. Key West suffered greatly in the Depression during those years; the city declared bankruptcy and handed its operations to the state of Florida.