Although most Florida Keys residents are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma’s anticipated landfall, 10 employees of the legendary Ernest Hemingway home in Key West are choosing to ride out the storm at the historic building along with the 55 cats that roam the estate.
One such employee, named Jacqui Sands, 72, is the historic site’s general manager. She is working to secure the estate, built back in 1851, and ensure the safety of the cats, many of which have six or seven toes on one paw.
A TMZ tweet shows what the two-story home looks like:
Key West's Hemingway House Almost Certainly an Irma Casualty https://t.co/vEEFV9YL8h
— TMZ (@TMZ) September 7, 2017
“If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t stay,” Sands told the Washington Post. “My kids told me to get the hell out. But I have an obligation to take care of the building and the cats.” The other nine employees are helping retrieve storm shutters to board up windows and doors, Sands said, adding they have not left because either they do not have a car or could not find a flight.
The French Colonial home is built of limestone and sits 16 feet above sea level, one of the highest points on the island.
Hemingway lived in the home, across the street from the Key West lighthouse, from 1931-1939. The cats with the extra toes are the descendants of Hemingway’s own cats. It was in this house that Hemingway wrote short stories including “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and the novel “To Have And Have Not.”
Sloppy Joe’s, one of Hemingway’s favorite haunts, also located on Key West, kept its doors open for straggling tourists on Thursday.