U.S. and Cuba join forces to restore Hemingway's Havana home

Posted: 04-Aug-15 10:31

Famed writer Ernest Hemingway's Cuba home-turned-museum has been pledged more than $860,000 by the Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation to repair the main house and build a climate-controlled workshop to preserve the author's many papers, letters and books.

U.S. and Cuba join forces to restore Hemingway's Havana home

The Cuba home of America’s most celebrated writer Ernest Hemingway is to receive $860,000 in US supplies to aid in preserving the historic building and its contents. The Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation – named after Hemingway’s house – is in charge of the restoration project. A spokesperson said it has received approval from both the US and Cuban governments to import building materials to Cuba – the first time this has been allowed since the 1950s.

The house in a hilly Havana suburb that renowned journalist Martha Gellhorn found for her then-husband in 1939 was donated along with its contents to the Cuban government after Hemingway’s death. It is now a popular attraction for visitors to Cuba, who can take tours of the house and grounds. Named Finca Vigia, which means Outlook Farm in Spanish, it has remained virtually untouched since Hemingway left for the last time in 1961.

The author spent many years writing at the property, including working on For Whom the Bell Tolls and his Nobel Prize-winning book The Old Man and the Sea. He also used the house as a base for his many fishing forays into Cuba’s northern waters on his boat Pilar, which is now dry-docked in the Finca’s lush tropical gardens. Hemingway is also said to have hosted many famous guests at the property including writers, diplomats and film stars such as Ava Gardner.

The joint US-Cuba restoration project will ensure Hemingway’s legacy is properly preserved. The house, along with many of Hemingway’s papers and possessions, are in much need of repair after years of decaying in Cuba’s hot humid climate. Displays at his former home include curios such as a collection of pickled lizards, hunting trophies, his typewriter and some of the author’s clothing.

The Finca Vigia Foundation began to work with the Cuban government to save Hemingway’s home back in 2005. But red tape and lack of materials meant progress was thwarted until the recent signing of an agreement to import supplies to repair the main building and construct a workshop next to the house. The climate-controlled laboratory will be used to restore and maintain Hemingway’s documents, book drafts, letters and books, many of which contain the famed author’s handwriting.

The collaboration has been made possible by the recent easing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US. In January this year, US president Barack Obama authorised the export of construction materials to the island for the first time since the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Finca Vigia Foundation’s executive director Mary-Jo Adams noted that Hemingway’s love for Cuba created a rare area where the U.S and Cuban governments could cooperate, despite tensions left over from the Cold War. She told CNN:

"It’s historic, not since the 1950s has a building with American materials been built here..."

As part of the restoration project, foundation experts have already micro-filmed and scanned thousands of Hemingway’s documents, including the writer’s correspondence, hand-written cooking recipes and early drafts of his books. Adams added:

"Hemingway was a pack rat. He wrote a lot of letters and often he slept on them and never sent them. It provides a glimpse into his thought process."

The foundation hopes to bring the entire restoration facility piece-by-piece to Cuba from Florida by 2016.


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