A national landmark sits in a working-class neighborhood outside of Havana. It’s called Finca Vigía, or “Lookout Farm”, and it was once the home of Ernest Hemingway.

The house, built at the end of the 19th century by a Spanish architect, sits on a large hill with sweeping views of the Cuban capital. The property is lush with palms and bamboo trees. It also has a look-out tower, a guest house, an in-ground swimming pool that the writer used every day, and his now dry-docked boat, The Pilar.

Time began to wear away at the historic house, but an exhaustive project to restore Finca Vigía to its former glory has just reached a major milestone thanks to a group of experts from Massachusetts.

Members of WGBH News' Morning Edition team traveled to Cuba this past weekend, where the group of preservationists from Massachusetts celebrated the opening of a conservation center at Ernest Hemingway's house in Havana. One of those preservationists is Bob Vila, the former host of the TV show “This Old House.”

“This is representative of American culture and the genius of American literature located in one of the most controversial spots in the Americas,” he said. “So when you think about the impact we’ve been able to have in terms of friendship [and] cultural bridge-building, it’s really important stuff.”

Vila serves as president of the Boston-based group Finca Vigía Foundation, which was formed fifteen years ago to save Hemingway’s home — and the contents within it — from the effects of mother nature. He said the site still has a lot of problems.

“The house itself sits on about 10 acres that hasn’t really been managed or controlled in decades,” Vila said.

It’s an ongoing project, being done in collaboration with the Cuban group Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural. And experts like Vila say they now have access to tools and resources they’ve never had before.

The whole project got its start back in 2001 when Frank Phillips, a long-time Boston Globe reporter, and his late wife Jenny first visited the writer’s home. Jenny’s grandfather, Maxwell Perkins, was Hemingway’s close friend and editor. So for them, and especially for Jenny, it was a personal journey.

“When we went to the Hemingway house … she asked one of the curators whether there were any letters from her grandfather to Hemingway,” Phillips said. The curator said they did have the letters, but told the couple that they could not see them. That didn’t sit well with Jenny.

“Having been Jenny’s husband for 51-and-a-half years, you don’t say ‘no’ to Jenny,” Frank said. “She’ll get what she wants.”

And she did.

Jenny kicked off the effort that culminated this past weekend with the dedication of a new paper conservation center on the property, which will help to preserve Hemingway’s personal papers, manuscripts and his 9,000-book library.

Many of the writer’s manuscripts have been cataloged in digital form at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, which is home to the largest Hemingway collection in the world. For some people, it might seem odd that his work is housed at the library, or in Boston for that matter. But Hilary Justice, the library’s Hemingway scholar in residence, said it’s not so strange when you learn more about the unique history between the writer and the president.

“I call it a tale of two widows,” she said.

Justice explained that Hemingway and Kennedy never met, but the connection began when Kennedy asked Hemingway for permission to use the writer’s definition of courage for his autobiography. And after Hemingway’s suicide in July of 1961, the president gave Mary Hemingway special permission to retrieve personal items from their home in Havana, which was otherwise off-limits to Americans.

Following President Kennedy’s assassination, Mary Hemingway offered her late husband’s papers to be included in the yet-to-be-built JFK Library. Jackie Kennedy was touched by the offer, and wrote to Mary saying she’d be proud to include the papers in the library. An entire wing was dedicated to those papers, but the rest remained at Finca Vigía.

When Jenny and Frank Phillips showed up at the house back in 2001, they found his belongings were still untouched. Frank recalled the visceral effect of seeing the writer’s artifacts.

“I remember when we were first allowed in the house, some of his clothes were there," he said. "Jenny sniffed some of the clothes and swore she smelled Hemingway.”

Getting the project up and running at the Havana property wasn’t easy. Because of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, restoration required an agreement between the two governments. One was formed in 2002 with the support of Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern and Fidel Castro, and it brought two politically-opposed nations together to preserve the legacy of a literary legend who called both the U.S. and Cuba home. Hemingway lived in many different countries around the world, but he lived in Cuba longer than anywhere else.

Izbel Ferreiro, executive director of the museum at Finca Vigía, showed Morning Edition around the home where Hemingway finished writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

“When the book was published, it was a success,” she explained as she walked through the home, which looked almost exactly as it did when Hemingway was there. “Paramount Pictures made a movie… [They] paid Hemingway $150,000 — a lot of money at that time … What he did, he bought the property.”

It’s where he indulged his passions, from fishing to entertaining. It’s also where he wrote his most successful and widely published novel, “The Old Man and The Sea.”

Izbel took us to a room filled with records and an old record player. “[There are] more than a hundred records … Mozart, Beethoven, Spanish music. And the record player still works.”

She put a record on and let the house fill with sound.

“It’s a beautiful house,” Frank Phillips said. “You can just see Hemingway in the house. And according to my wife, you can smell him.”

‘Morning Edition on the Road’ in Cuba is made possible with support from the Museum of Science.

This post has been updated.