The Story of Papa's Hideaway
Some say history is a set of facts, but we like to think it is brought to life as myth, imagination and the lore of the island. There is no place more full of stories and storytellers then Key West, after all this beautiful island has been the home to some of the world’s most famous writers for nearly a century.
It is only fitting that Papa’s Hideaway is itself a story, a place that is tucked away in a quiet corner of the island, hidden by lush foliage and waiting to be discovered by the lucky few. Yet, it is just a block from festive Duval Street, a few blocks from the Southernmost Point, from beaches, Fort Zachary Taylor and the countless attractions of Key West. Here is an oasis of serenity from which to launch the vacation of a lifetime, a place to create a story that you will never tire of telling.
We have heard stories that the cottage at Papa’s Hideaway was used by Ernest “Papa” Hemingway to hold boxing matches during his time in Key West. Hemingway was himself a boxer in his early years, and in Key West he boxed and was often the referee for matches he staged. The one-time Key West Arena, located at the corner of Thomas and Petronia streets was the site of many of those open-air fights. Today this is the site of the popular Caribbean style Blue Heaven Restaurant. Did boxing also take place at the site of Papa’s Hideaway? We don’t know for sure, but you can walk the few blocks from your room at Papa’s and imagine yourself in the 1930’s watching men box bareknuckle, the air thick with Cuban cigar smoke, and the match being watched over by one of America’s greatest writers.
We were once told that the name Papa’s Hideaway harkens back to the times when Papa Hemingway slipped away from his second wife Pauline and came to this hidden-away Louisa Street site to play cards, drink whiskey and, of course, smoke cigars with his friends. After all, the Hemingway House was just a few blocks away at 907 Whitehead Street, and you can retrace these steps by turning left as you leave the compound and there you will be on Whitehead just blocks from the Hemingway House, the first house in Key West to have indoor plumbing and the first to have a swimming pool, and now a fascinating museum.
Did Hemingway play cards with the poet Wallace Stevens here and is that why they ended up duking it out in the street over an insult to Hemingway’s sister? Stevens and Robert Frost stayed at the Casa Marina just blocks from Papa’s Hideaway where the two poets drank and argued. Or maybe Hemingway played some hands of poker with his writer friend John Dos Passos who also lived in Key West, or Max Perkins (Hemingway’s editor as well as F.Scott Fitzgerald’s). Maybe it was the artist Waldo Pearce, whose painting The Silver Slipper is a rendering of the dance hall next to Sloppy Joe’s, and may just remind you of the Dade County pine and other architectural details of Papa’s Hideaway and maybe, just a little, of the fun you have in Key West. It likely wasn’t Martha Gellhorn playing cards at 309 Louisa Street. Gellhorn was soon to be Hemingway’s third wife, but he met her at Sloppy Joe’s, a bar you can still walk to from Papa’s Hideaway.
We will probably never really know what happened at Papa’s Hideaway. Use your imagination...maybe you will be the next great writer, musician or artist and the story tellers of Key West will add you to the stories told about Papa’s Hideaway.
After all, it isn’t just Hemingway’s footsteps you are following on this beautiful island. Hemingway lived in Key West until nearly 1940, and Tennessee Williams called the island home from the late 1940s until his death in 1983. Poet Robert Frost wintered at a small Key West cottage from 1945 to 1960.
The island also has been home to John Hersey, James Merrill, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur, John Malcolm Brinnin, Alison Lurie, Robert Stone, Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, Philip Burton, Judy Blume, Daniel Felsenfeld, Nancy Friday, Harry Mathews, Marie Chaix, Shel Silverstein, Wilfrid Sheed, David Kaufelt, Jenn Cleary, Ann Beattie, Jimmy Buffett and Philip Caputo, among others.
Come enjoy Papa’s Hideaway, imagine the history you are going to create, relax, enjoy and live your story.