KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The roster of writers who have lived or spent significant time in Key West reads like a “Who’s Who” of literary luminaries. The creative spirits who found refuge and inspiration on the island, and made it part of their lives and work, are showcased in the Old Town Literary Walking Tour.
The 90-minute guided strolls, coordinated by the team behind the acclaimed annual Key West Literary Seminar, take participants past a wealth of sites and landmarks that recall world-renowned writers’ presence and illustrate the island’s importance in the literary realm.
Key West was both home and inspiration to legendary writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Hemingway used the island as the setting for “To Have and Have Not,” his only novel set in the United States, while Williams stated in a long-ago interview, “I loved Key West. I work best here.”
Many other literary notables — including poets Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop, novelists Alison Lurie and Ann Beattie, and writers of young-adult and adult fiction Judy Blume and Meg Cabot — have been entranced by the subtropical spot’s colorful natural beauty, easygoing lifestyle and offbeat character.
Scheduled each week at 4:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Sunday, the walking tours depart from Key West’s pink-walled public library at 700 Fleming St. A knowledgeable and entertaining guide leads the comfortably paced exploration, sharing insights into the lives and work of past and present resident writers.
Participants can view the former homes and haunts of playwright Williams, eccentric author Shel Silverstein, poets Bishop and Frost, renegade writer Thomas McGuane and many others.
“It’s a great opportunity to get some sunshine, some fresh air and a glimpse of the literary lights that still burn brightly in our island city,” said Arlo Haskell, executive director of the Key West Literary Seminar.
Haskell stressed that, to protect against the potential spread of coronavirus, each walking tour will be limited to six participants and everyone, including the guide, must wear a facial covering at all times.
Tickets are priced at $30 per person and advance purchase is required. Discounts are offered for teachers, librarians and students with valid identification. Private tours are available by special arrangement. Tour information and ticketing: kwls.org/tour
Internationally renowned playwright Tennessee Williams purchased a house in Key West. The red-shuttered house, still standing on a quiet, tree-lined street, is privately owned and is not open to the public.
A group of houses set behind a white stucco wall, known as the Windsor Lane Compound, became home to a celebrated coterie of writers.