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26 March 2015

Zora Neale Hurston in Fort Pierce

The Zora Neale Hurston Branch Library in Fort Pierce, which has a large collection of audio-visual resources on Hurston. At the time of writing, it is only open three days a week.

The Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail takes in eight locations, although for a number of reasons I only visited the first four, but these include by far the most important: the house in which she lived for a short time, and her grave. The places I didn't see are the Fort Pierce Chronicle headquarters, where editor C. E. Bolen persuaded Hurston to come and write a column for his paper; Means Court School, the first public school (in the American sense) in Fort Pierce for African American kids; Peek Funeral Chapel, where memorial services were given for Hurston on 28 January 1960; and Backus Studio, where Friday evenings she listened to jam sessions at painter A. E. 'Bean' Backus's studio.

The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, along with other groups, has given a large number of Hurston-related works to the library.

Lincoln Park Academy, Avenue I.

Hurston briefly taught English here in 1958. At the time, it was segregated.  

Hurston's home on Avenue L.

The home was owned by the physician Dr. Clem C. Benton, a friend of the family who allowed Hurston to live rent-free for nearly two years from early 1958 to late 1959, when she was close to her death January 1960. The house has been slightly moved from its original location.

'ZORA NEALE HURSTON
MEMORIAL MONUMENT
 
TERRACOTTA & CONCRETE
 
JIM LICCIONE'
 
This was a bonus for me because I was unaware of the existence of Liccione's memorial  – which stands right at the entrance to the Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery at 17th Street and Avenue S – before my visit. It is very impressive.
 


 
 

'ZORA NEALE HURSTON
A GENIUS OF THE SOUTH
1901 –––1960
NOVELIST FOLKLORIST
ANTHROPOLOGIST'

This was originally a segregated cemetery, and Zora Neale Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave. Alice Walker, trying to retrace Hurston's tracks, 'discovered' it in the early 1970s.

Seward Johnson in Key West, Florida

I first came across an example of the sculptor Seward Johnson's work last year in White Plains, New York State, which was First Case. This one is at the entrance to Casa Marina.

'TAKING A BREAK
BY J. SEWARD JOHNSON, JR.
SITED SCULPTURE PLACEMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C.

B. P. Roberts, Key West Cemetery, Florida

This is one of the most interesting graves in Key West Cemetery.
 
'I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK
B. P. ROBERTS
MAY 17. 1929
JUNE 18. 1979'
 
The Key West Cemetery 'Self-Guided Tour' leaflet describes Roberts as a 'local hypochondriac', although to go at fifty is pretty early. This huge structure was very easy to find, and yet in spite of the indications in the leaflet, after much searching we had to give up on finding the poet Juana Borrero and 'Sloppy' Joe Russell too.

Key West and Tourism

Sometimes you can't avoid tourism, I think in Florida in particular. It's obviously interesting that this huge object represents the southernmost point in the States, being only ninety miles from Cuba. We aren't used to tourism and do our best to avoid it, and we were amazed by the long line of people from different nations queuing to have their photos taken next to this marker. We didn't bother because we aren't that kind of people, and anyway in between the posing everyone had an opportunity to take a shot of it without anyone leaning on it and smiling inanely.

The Southernmost Point is at the end of Whitehead Street, while at the other end is Sloppy Joe's Bar. Although 'Sloppy' Joe Russell was Hemingway's fishing guide and friend, I didn't include this image with my post on Papa's house because it seemed a bit tacky to do so. We walked straight in and straight out of this place: at about four in the afternoon it was crammed with drinkers and unbelievably noisy. I think it's somewhere tourists go to say they've been there, and they may well also buy a tee-shirt or a cap or something else associated with Hemingway in the attached gift shop. A few of these tourists may even have read one of the man's books. Or maybe not.

Writers Associated with Key West, Florida: #5 John Hersey

719 Windsor Lane, Key West.
THE WRITERS COMPOUND
 
FOUNDING RESIDENTS
 
John Ciardi 1976 – 1986
Ralph Ellison 1976 – 1993
John Hersey 1976 – 1993
Richard Wilbur 1976 – 2007
 
'FRIEND OF LIBRARIES U.S.A.
LITERARY LANDMARKS REGISTER
 
JOHN HERSEY
1914 – 1993
 
Reporting death, he did not
proclaim it.
To life – for all its heresy –
he was open and loving.'

Writers Associated with Key West, Florida: #4 José Martí

'FRIENDS OF LIBRARIES U.S.A.

LITERARY LANDMARKS REGISTER
designates the
SAN CARLOS
INSTITUTE
"La Casa Cuba"
founded in 1871
a Literary Landmark
in honor of its tradition of academic excellence
as a shrine to Cuban heritage and where

JOSE MARTI
1853-1895

Cuban patriot. poet and scholar
united  the exile community in his campaign
for Cuba's independence.'

A bust of José Martí in the San Carlos Institute, underneath which is a bi-lingual quotation:

'Libertad es el derecho
que todo hombre tiene a
ser honrado, y a pensar
a hablar sin hipocresía'

'Liberty is the right of
every man to be honest, to
think and to speak without
hypocrisy'

José Martí

'José Martí visited Key West for the first time from
December 25, 1891 to January 5. 1892. His
accomplishments in these two weeks figure very high in
the history of Cuba. He was able to unite the exiled
community, the "Bases" of the Partido Revolucionario
Cubano were written and the tobacco workers agreed to
help finance the war. The two big dates at the San
Carlos during these two weeks, were the 3rd and 5th of
January when the "Bases" were announced and a huge
farewell party was held in Martí's honor.'


In Bayview Park, Key West, there is a superb monument to José Martí.

'JOSE MARTI

EL APOSTOL DDE LA LIBERTAD CUBANA
QUISO OFRECIR
AL PUEBLO DE KEY WEST
LO QUE QUEDABA DE SU CORAZON.

ESTE MONUMENTO
PERPETUA SU DESEO.'

'COMO DEJARE SIN DECIR
LA VIVEZA CON QUE ANHELO
UNA OCASION RESPETUOSA
DE PONER LO QUE ME QUEDA
DE CORAZON JUNTO AL CAYO ?'

'CAYO HUESO, ISLA LABRADA Y HERMOSEADA POR EL ESFUERZO CUBANO.

Y NO CARGAREMOS CON ELLA COMO NUESTRA ALMA INVENCIBLE

QUE HA SIDO Y NOS LA CLAVAREMOS AL COSTADO.

PARA MONUMENTO DE SUS FUNDADORES Y OBJETO DE NUESTRA JUSTA ADMIRACION ?'

19 March 2015

Writers Associated with Key West, Florida: #3 Ernest Hemingway

'THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY
HOUSE & MUSEUM
 
Where Hemingway lived and wrote from 1931–1939
 
This site is dedicated as a Literary Landmark by the Association
of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations on the
occasion of the first One Island One Book event, when the
citizens of KeyWest celebrated the novel To Have and Not Have.'

Asa Forsythe Tift (1812–89), one of the richest men in the USA, built this house between 1849 and 1851. His wife and three children died in an epidemic of yellow fever in the mid-1850s, he didn't re-marry and died in the house.
 
The house fell into disrepair until  according to some sources – Gus, the uncle of Hemingway's second wife Pauline (née Pffeiffer) – bought it for them for $8000 in 1931. The Hemingway House website tells a different story: Hemingway bought it with back taxes.

The living room. Furniture in the house is the original.

The  living room was initially divided by a wall which Pauline had removed.

The master bedroom, complete with cat.

One of Hemingway's wooden trophies from Africa.

The original kitchen.

And the original bathroom.

Part of the veranda between the two floors.

The swimming pool cost Pauline $20,000, which was of course much more than the cost of the house itself. It was not only the first in Key West, but the first within a hundred miles. Although funded by his wife, legend has it that Hemingway said she'd taken everything but his last cent, and threw a penny in the pool.

And this is said to be the original penny.

The extension where Hemingway did his writing.

Hemingway's writing table, with typewriter and once-living trophy from an African safari.

Hemingway obviously took great pride in killing animals.

Another side of his writing room, with pictures of him at different ages.

One of the many cats that have the run of the house, which are all descendants of the famous six-toed cats. The bar next door to the Hemingway house is even called The Six-Toed Cat. This one is called Eleanor Roosevelt.

And some cats presumably enjoyed paddling in the cement.

 
There's even a cat cemetery, with dates of the animals often named after writers, actors, and so on, such as Marilyn Monroe, Edgar Allan Poe, Simone de Beauvoir, Jimmy Stewart, etc. Visitors can spend as long as they like on their visit here, and we took part in one of the guided tours, which was interesting but unsurprisingly probably almost as much time was spent talking about the cats as Hemingway himself. It's as though Hemingway has taken a back seat here: most people, after all, see the cats as the huge attraction here. I didn't expect a university lecture of course, but just a few words about the man's importance to literature wouldn't have gone amiss, such as his Spartan style, his paring away of excess fat, his admiration for such writers as Zane Grey, etc.

Opposite is Key West lighthouse. Legend also says that this is how Hemingway found his way home after a night's excess of alcohol. You come to expect such remarks about Hemingway, who went out of his way to create a larger-than-life myth of himself. But as a person who has spent most of his life respecting animals to the extent that I would never dream of eating any of them, I shall probably always find it very difficult indeed to like Ernest Hemingway the man.