Row over future of Hemingway home
Dan Glaister, Guardian News Service, Los Angeles, California
Ernest Hemingway had a good grasp of the value of real estate.
"This place is a good rental property in the skiing season and in the summer and was a wonderful buy," he wrote in 1960 of the house he had just bought in Idaho's picturesque Sun valley. "I plan to live here in the shooting season."
But the Nobel prize-winning author of The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls spent little time in the house until the final two years of his life.
Ill, deluded that he was being pursued by federal tax authorities and receiving electroshock therapy at a nearby hospital, Hemingway shot himself in the house in 1961.
Now neighbors in the small town of Ketchum fear that plans to open the house to the public will bring scores of tourists who will disrupt their peace and clog up their drives. They want to buy the property - which could have a price-tag of more than $500,000 - from the conservancy that owns it, and move it down the road.
But the plan has run into opposition from the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation, which counts the Hollywood luminary Tom Hanks and the writer's granddaughter Mariel Hemingway as board members.
The concrete and wood house and the 5 hectares surrounding it were bequeathed to the Nature Conservancy by the writer's widow, Mary, on her death in 1986. Inside, it remains as Hemingway would remember it.
His typewriter stands on a table before a window overlooking the valley. The master bedroom features a mounted gazelle head, while two other trophies from the writer's African hunting trips are in the living room. A small Picasso drawing - which Hemingway said was a fake - hangs on a wall.
But the house, which costs $50,000 a year to maintain, is a strain on the conservancy.
"Our mission is one of conservation and biodiversity, not historical preservation," Geoff Pampush, the director of the group's Idaho chapter, told the Associated Press.
To relieve itself of the burden, the group decided to hand it over to the Hemingway House Foundation, which would open it to the public and turn it into a library and writer's retreat. The foundation would also raise $500,000 towards renovating the house.
But local residents are not happy. Since Hemingway died, the small town of Ketchum has become a prosperous ski resort. Property prices are in the millions and the buyers tend to be wealthy out-of-towners with several homes.
Neighbors of the Hemingway home say they own the driveway and would not grant access to what they claim could be 14,000 visitors a year.
"It isn't about anyone not liking Hemingway," Jonathan Neeley, a neighbor and Miami hotel owner. "The issue is, they don't own the right of way."
Mary Hemingway negotiated an agreement over right of way to the property in 1969 after discovering that she had no legal access to the shared drive. But neighbors argue that the agreement does not extend to tourists. They also argue that the writer's widow did not want the house opened to the public.
Patrick Hemingway, the writer's only surviving son, agrees, saying that he would prefer to see the house "decommissioned like an old battleship". Arguing that the home would not make a suitable memorial to his father, he said: "That house does not represent his life and the vacation times that he spent in the Sun valley area so happily ... The main association of Ernest Hemingway with the house is his last desperate year and a half of life."
Hemingway first visited the area in 1939, working on For Whom the Bell Tolls before moving to the area in 1958. While living there he worked on several novels, including The Dangerous Summer, A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream and The Garden of Eden. He wrote a short story based on a hunting trip in the area called The Shot.
The Nature Conservancy has given itself six weeks to decide whether to allow neighbors to buy the house and move it to another location in Ketchum - it would then be handed back to the conservancy - or to hand it over to the foundation.