Arts & Culture

A Guide to Ernest Hemingway’s Sun Valley Legacy

Known for titles such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, American novelist and avid outdoorsman, Ernest Hemingway, visited Sun Valley frequently. Returning time and time again to hunt, fish, write, Hemingway established a permanent residence in the Valley before his death in 1961. Enjoy the beauty of the Wood River Valley as Hemingway once did – grab cocktail at one of his favorite local watering holes, fish the same grounds he once explored, or visit his final resting place at the Ketchum Cemetery.

Ernest Hemingway - Sun Valley, Idaho | photo: the Community Library  Ernest Hemingway - Sun Valley, Idaho | photo: the Community Library  Ernest Hemingway - Sun Valley, Idaho | photo: the Community Library

Sun Valley Lodge

Sun Valley Lodge Hemingway first came to Sun Valley in 1939 with an invite to stay alongside other celebrities at the Sun Valley Lodge. Joined by his soon to be third wife, Martha Gelhorn, Hemingway set up shop in Suite 206. Here, Hemingway finished his most popular novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls. Today, visitors can stay in the “Celebrity Suite” dedicated to Hemingway. Decorated with photographs of the novelist as well as a bronze statue of the author at his typewriter, the suite commemorates the author’s stay at the Lodge.

Silver Creek Preserve

Hemingway made many local friends during his visits to the Valley and was close with the Purdy family, often hunting and fishing at their ranch along the Silver Creek. Hemingway’s eldest son, Jack, shared the same love for the outdoors and became Idaho’s Fish and Game commissioner. During this time, Jack helped the Nature Conservancy preserve his father’s old hunting grounds, aiding in Conservancy’s purchase of the almost 3,000 acres that make up the Silver Creek Preserve. A rock in the preserve bears a quote from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, ”One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to its place where it arose.” Today, you can visit the Preserve and fish the same grounds that Hemingway once did.

Local Watering Holes

Hemingway was known to frequent establishments like the Sawtooth Club and the Pioneer Saloon for cocktails. He would gamble at the Casino (before it became illegal) and dine at his favorite table at Michel’s Christiana. In addition, Hemingway liked to entertain friends and hosted costume parties at Trail Creek Cabin. The Pioneer Saloon displays one of Hemingway’s prized guns that he used when hunting with Purdy on his ranch, a 1953 Winchester Model 21 twelve-gauge shotgun.

The Historic Ernest and Mary Hemingway House

Bought by the Hemingways in 1959, Ernest spent his final years in his Ketchum home along the Big Wood River. The house was bequeathed to The Nature Conservancy by Mary Hemingway upon her death in 1986 and, after 30 years of management, changed hands to The Community Library in Ketchum. The estate‘s 14 acres remain private, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and are now a part of the Library’s larger historic program. Through the efforts of the Library’s Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History, items in the house were inventoried, catalogued and preserved in perpetuity, including books signed to Ernest Hemingway by such notable authors as Thornton Wilder and Archibald MacLeish, as well as Mary Hemingway’s collection of evening gowns, which still hang in her art-deco-inspired closet. The Library also initiated significant renovations to the house, and the lower level now hosts the Writer-in-Residence at the Hemingway House program to offer authors, dramatists, scholars, and artists time, inspiration, and space to create new works. The house is closed to the public in an effort to preserve the historic building and its artifacts, and to respect the privacy of the neighbors. While the Library asks that you respect this designation, many items from the historic Hemingway House are made accessible to the public through exhibits at the Library and the Wood River Museum of History and Culture, as well as through research requests. Boise State State Radio – NPR did a great piece on the Hemingway House that is well worth a listen for a broader perspective. Check it out here.

Final Resting Place

  Ernest Hemingway Grave - Ketchum, Idaho Although he traveled the world and had homes in Cuba and Key West, Hemingway is buried, surrounded by friends and family, in the Ketchum Cemetery. The Wood River Valley was a refuge for Hemingway and now, his final resting place. His grave is flanked by two spruce trees, and is often found adorned with bottles of booze left by passing admirers.

Hemingway Memorial

Built by his friends, Hemingway’s Memorial on Trail Creek Road is approximately 1.5 miles from the Lodge. The epitaph he once wrote for a friend, victim to a hunting accident, is now engraved on his own memorial. It speaks to his friend’s, and also his own, love for the outdoors.

“Best of all he loved the fall The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods Leaves floating on the trout streams And above the hills The high blue windless skies Now he will be a part of them forever”

The Community Library and Wood River Museum of History and Culture

A collection of Hemingway’s mementos and literary works can be found in the Betty Olsen Carr Reading Room at The Community Library. A larger exhibit – A Writer in New Country: Hemingway in 1939 – can be explored at the Wood River Museum of History and Culture. This exhibit examines who Hemingway was when he arrived in the Wood River Valley: a writer at his peak, a globetrotter drawn to remote places, a rugged outdoor enthusiast, and a man with complicated personal relationships. Visitors can type their own “One True Sentence” on a vintage typewriter just like Ernest Hemingway used! The Museum is located at 4th and Walnut in Ketchum. Admittance to the museum is free and open Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Pick up a map from The Community Library or download one here, and take in the sights of Sun Valley through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway.

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