Havana (Span. La Habana, or San Cristobal de la Habana), a fortified maritime city, capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba, and of a district of the same name, ranking among the foremost seaports and commercial marts of the world. It is situated on the W. side of a beautiful bay of the gulf of Mexico, on the N. W. coast of the island; lat. 23° 8' N, Ion. 82° 22' W. The population is represented in the official returns of 1871 as being only 169,184, comprising 108,754 whites, 37,623 free negroes, etc, and 22,807 slaves; but it is really at least 200,-000. The Spanish government has always in its official census returns underrated the population of its colonies. The city stands on a sort of peninsula, formed on one side by the bay and on the other by the waters of the gulf; and it is commonly distinguished into two portions, the intramural or old town, between the bay and the site of the ancient walls, and the extramural or new town, beyond the walls. In the former the streets, though for the most part regular and well paved, are extremely narrow, and, being lowest in the middle, favor the accumulation of great pools of water in the rainy season; and the sidewalks are barely wide enough for one pedestrian.

The macadamized thoroughfares of the other portion, rather resembling roads than streets, are ample, well ventilated, and fringed on either side with rows of graceful palm trees. Some of them are among the principal promenades or drives of the city. The prevailing style of architecture is identical with that of the south of Spain. The houses are solidly built of stone, with very thick walls, often painted within and without in showy colors, especially blue, green, or yellow, and sometimes a mingling of all three; they are either of one story and roofed with tiles, or of two stories with a fiat roof of substantial masonry, at times surmounted by a mirador (lookout), affording at once a magnificent view and a cool and agreeable retreat after sunset. The windows, which are extremely high, are never glazed, but defended on the outside by strong iron bars, and within by wooden shutters secured, like the doors, with massive bars or bolts. The doors, almost always double, are very ponderous, and open either directly into the sala or parlor, or into a large gateway (zaguan), guarded by a portero or janitor, and leading into an open patio (courtyard) whence a spacious staircase leads to the apartments above. All the rooms open upon a covered veranda which surrounds the patio.

In the dwellings of the rich the floors and stairs are usually of marble, the decorations and furniture luxurious and tasteful, and the patio is generally embellished with a parterre of exotic flowers and an elegant fountain in the centre. Many of the residences in the extramural portion of the city are constructed in a more modern style, particularly in El Cerro (the Hill), a handsome street 3 m. long, leading to a village of the same name, and chiefly inhabited by the wealthy and fashionable, especially in summer. There is, however, no quarter of the town exclusively occupied by the higher classes, and in any street a miserable hovel may be seen side by side with a stately mansion. Foremost among the public edifices of Havana is the cathedral, erected in 1724, and used as a college by the Jesuits till 1789; but it is less remarkable for the beauty of its architecture than as being the resting place of the ashes of Christopher Columbus, transferred thither from Santo Domingo, Jan. 15, 1796. On one of the walls is a stone slab with the bust of Columbus in relief, and an inscription beneath.

There are fifteen other churches, nine of which are attached to certain monastic orders; two, Santa Catalina and San Juan de Dios, date from the 16th century; one, San Agustin, from the beginning of the 17th; and all are noteworthy for the richness and splendor of their decorations. El Templete, the Little Temple, is curious as having been erected in 1828 on the spot where mass was first celebrated, in 1519. There are numerous monasteries and nunneries. The governor's palace, on the W. side of the Plaza de Armas, is a yellow two-story edifice, with a handsome colonnade in front; it is occupied by the captain general, his staff, and the offices of the several government departments. The custom house, fronting on the bay, is a spacious building, devoid of architectural interest; but the customs warehouse, formerly the church of San Francisco, consecrated in 1737, has the loftiest tower in the city. Other buildings or public establishments worthy of mention are the admiralty, the exchange, the university, the prison, a vast quadrangular structure erected in 1771, near the mouth of the bay, and the real casa de beneficencia, a large building with beautiful grounds and comprising an orphan asylum and an asylum for vagrants, established about 1790. Havana has three theatres, one of which, built under the auspices of Captain General Tacon, whose name it bears, is said to be equal in size to La Scala of Milan; an arena for bull fights, this amusement being still popular in Havana; a gymnasium, a circus, and a number of well arranged and comfortable public baths.

The university has faculties of philosophy and letters, sciences, pharmacy, medicine and surgery, and law. There is also a large number of public and private schools, the former dependent upon the superior board of public instruction, the president of which is the captain general, and which is composed of three sections, each under a vice president. There is a hospital for those afflicted with a species of leprosy peculiar to the Antilles and reputed incurable; a lying-in, a charity, and a military hospital, and an insane asylum. The cemeteries, seven in number, under the charge of the church, are situated in the extramural district. Interments are made, as in Spain, in niches of tombs built in several stories above ground, each closed with an inscribed slab. Few cities in the world have a larger number of paseos or public promenades and public parks than Havana. The Plaza de Armas, at a short distance from the quays, and facing which is the governor's palace, as already observed, comprises four gardens, with a statue of Ferdinand VII. in the centre; magnificent palms and other trees border the walks, along which are stone seats with iron rests; and a regimental band plays there every evening.

The Alameda de Paula, bordering the bay, has an elegant fountain surmounted by a marble column, with military trophies and national symbols. A favorite evening resort is the Parque de Isabel, tastefully laid out, and having in the centre a statue of Isabella II. The Campo de Marte, used as a drill ground for the military, is a large enclosure resembling a trapezium in shape, the longest side of which is 375 ft.; it has four handsome gates, distinguished respectively by the names Colon, Cortes, Pizarro, and Tacon. The Paseo de Tacon is a magnificent wide drive, with double rows of trees, a promenade for pedestrians, and profusely embellished with columns and statues, some of the latter, especially one of Charles III., ranking among the finest specimens of art in America. Adjoining this promenade is a beautiful gate opening into the botanic garden, in which are specimens of countless tropical plants; and besides these gardens are the magnificent grounds attached to the quinta or country residence of the captain general. Other paseos, such as those of La Reina, El Prado, La Cortina de Valdes, and El Salon de O'Donnel, vie in beauty and scenery with those enumerated.

In the vicinity of the city are numerous places of fashionable resort, such as Ma-rianao, Puentes Grandes, and Guanabacoa. Not least among the interesting features of Havana were formerly the walls which girded the old town, commenced in 1G33, under Flores, but not completed till 1702. With their forts, ten bastions, and seven gates, they were quite useless; and a new town having grown up beyond them, they were almost totally demolished in 1804, and handsome dwellings erected in their place, materially improving the appearance and sanitary condition of the city. Good water is brought from the river Chorrera by an aqueduct about 7 m. long, furnishing a sufficient supply for use and for about 50 public fountains. The city is well lighted with gas. There are eight good hotels, and a great number of restaurants, cafes, etc. - The climate of Havana is essentially tropical; but the excessive heat is tempered by the sea breeze, which blows regularly every morning, and the agreeable terral (land breeze) every evening.

There are but two seasons: the dry or so-called winter season, from November to May, when very little rain falls; and the wet or summer season, which usually begins early in June and lasts till about the middle of October, and during which scarcely a day passes without heavy rain, sometimes accompanied by violent thunder and lightning. The mean temperature during the day is 80° F. in winter, and 86° to 90° in summer. Havana has several times been visited by terrific hurricanes, especially in 1768, 1810, 1844, and 1840, when numbers of ships anchored in the bay were entirely destroyed, and much damage was done in the city and surrounding country. Yellow fever prevails each year, commencing generally toward the end of June, and disappearing in September; foreigners only are attacked by this disease, which is particularly fatal among the shipping and soldiers. The average mortality is 27 per day throughout the year. - The harbor, one of the finest in the world, is entered from the northwest by a channel which is narrow for about three eighths of a mile, and then opens into a magnificent triple-headed bay, with a mean depth of five fathoms, and capable of accommodating 1,000 vessels of any size.

The wharves, which, save the portion occupied by the paseos above mentioned, extend along the whole water front of the town, are provided with covered sheds, and are almost continually lined with ships of all nations, closely ranged with their bowsprits inward. The harbor is defended by six forts. One of these, the bateria de la Punta, stands on a projecting tongue of land called the Punta, to the right of the entrance; another, the Morro castle, is placed directly opposite the first; both were built at the close of the 16th century. On the same side as the Morro are the fortifications of La Cabana, situated upon abrupt hills overlooking the narrow entrance; still further inward is the Casa Blanca, commanding the city; and beyond, in regular succession around the bay, are seen the forts Numero Cuatro, Principe, San Lazaro, and Pastora, the tower of Chorre-ra, and the fortress of Santo Domingo. Between the forts Numero Cuatro and Casa Blanca stands the little town of Regla, with its vast warehouses of stone and corrugated iron, as handsome and substantial as any in the world, and in which is stored each year the greater portion of the sugar of the island previous to its exportation.

In the arsenal, erected in 1734, ship building was formerly carried on; it has a dry dock of sufficient capacity for a vessel of 1,000 tons; and cannon were cast here of bronze, the copper being furnished by the Cobre mines on the island. - There are in Havana some iron founderies, machine shops, and carriage and other factories; but the chief manufacturing industry is that of tobacco. No less than 100 first-class and innumerable minor establishments are devoted to the manufacture of cigars, of ever changing brands, usually numbering about 1,000; and the average daily production of paper cigarettes is computed at 2,600,000. - After New York, Havana is the principal commercial port of the new world. About two thirds of the foreign; commerce of the island is carried on through it, the chief articles of export being sugar, rum, molasses, and tobacco, with oranges, pineapples, plantains or bananas, and fruit jellies. The quantities of sugar exported in the two years 1872-'3 were as follows:






Total in lbs.









The total value of that exported in 1872 was $26,666,672 50; in 1873, $26,892,927 50, approximately. In 1872 there were exported some 1,500 tierces (12,000 gallons) of molasses, 20,-841 pipes (2,605,125 gallons) of rum, 248,-775 lbs. of wax, 18,210,800 lbs. of tobacco in leaf, 229,087,545 cigars, and 19,344,707 packages (containing each 25) of cigarettes. In 1873 the quantity of leaf tobacco exported was 18,184,350 lbs., the number of cigars 239,-168,758, and of packages of cigarettes 24,-065,084. The imports consist chiefly of linen, cotton, woollen, and silk fabrics, breadstuffs, machinery for sugar mills, railway materials (the last four from the United States), wines, oil, etc. The following table exhibits the number, nationalities, and tonnage of the vessels entered in 1872:




United States........................






Great Britain.........................






France ...............................






Other nations.........................






There are two lines of steamers, averaging three vessels per week, from New York; weekly lines from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New Orleans, and a line twice weekly from Key West; weekly lines from Spain, France, and England, some of the steamers of the two last in transitu for Vera Cruz and other gulf ports of Mexico; steamers weekly to Matanzas; and an extensive coasting trade with Santiago de Cuba and the intermediate ports. An extra steamer from New York every 20 days for Vera Cruz carries passengers and freight to and from Havana. Four railways, with numerous branches, place the city in communication with the principal towns in the Western Department; telegraphs extend to all important points in the island; there is a submarine cable to Key West, and another from Batabano to Santiago de Cuba, and thence to Kingston, Jamaica, connecting with that from the latter island to Aspinwall. Horse cars run every five minutes between the old and new towns; besides which there are several lines of omnibuses, and a large number of public vehicles running very cheaply.

Havana has three public and a large number of private banks; establishments of commercial, industrial, and agricultural credit; a savings bank; a monte de piedad (pawn office) under the direction of the government; and 21 daily and other newspapers and periodicals. Besides the library of the university, there are several others attached to the various literary and scientific institutions. The royal Havana lottery is under the immediate supervision of the government, to which it yields annually about $40,000,000; and another lottery, under the auspices of the municipal government, was organized in 1873. - Diego de Velazquez, the conqueror of the island, founded, on July 25,1515, a town at the mouth of the river Guines or Mayabeque, and called it San Cristobal in honor of Christopher Columbus. Shortly afterward it was transferred to the embouchure of the Rio Almen-dares, and finally, in 1519, to its present site and under its present name. As early as 1508 Sebastian de Ocampo visited the bay for the purpose of repairing his ship, and from that circumstance named it bahia de las Carenas (Careen bay). To its convenient geographical position and the excellence of its harbor is due the rapid growth and early prosperity of Havana; but that prosperity aroused before long the cupidity of freebooters and pirates, who sacked and burned it in 1538. In order to prevent the repetition of similar incursions, a fort called La Fuerza, still standing and occupied as a barrack, was built by Hernando de Soto, and the town declared to be a stronghold, orders being issued at the same time that it should be saluted by vessels of war entering the port.

Havana was probably raised to a bishopric soon after its foundation, for its second bishop died in 1528. In 1539 De Soto set out from here on his expedition for the conquest of Florida, taking with him 900 foot and 300 horse, but leaving the garrison well defended; for Havana had already been constituted the chief naval station and port of outfit for the Spanish forces in the new world, then called Indias, and the indispensable haven and outpost for the newly established viceroyalty of New Spain, whose shores were without any adequate harbors. In 1550 the residence of the captain general and the seat of government were transferred from Santiago de Cuba to Havana. In 1551 pirates, under the notorious Jacob Sores, sacked the church and the houses of the wealthy, and forced the commandant of the fort to surrender. After committing numerous outrages and murdering many of the influential citizens, Sores departed; but the place was afterward repeatedly seized by buccaneers. It was unsuccessfully attacked by Drake in 1585; but from that time until the middle of the 18th century it was the scene of no remarkable event.

The yellow fever first made its appearance among the shipping in the summer of 1761. The following year an English squadron commanded by Admiral Pocock bombarded the city, and compelled it to capitulate, Aug. 14, after a brave defence during two months. It was restored to the Spaniards in 1763, by the treaty of Paris. In 1782 was published La Gaceta de la Habana, the earliest newspaper in the island. In 1789, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, their church became the cathedral of Havana, in which seven years later was deposited the urn containing the ashes of Columbus. In 1818 the port of Havana, in common with the others of the island, was by law opened to foreign commerce. The work on the first railway of the island, that from Havana to Guines, was begun in 1835; and in 1837 the first ferry boats were established between the city and Regla on the opposite shore of the bay. In 1850 the first line of mail steamships from Cadiz to Havana was established. On the revolution in Hayti in 1795 upward of 12,000 families from that island settled in Havana, as did also a large portion of the French army driven from Hayti in 1802; and a few years later, during the struggle of the Spanish continental colonies for their independence, vast numbers took refuge in Havana, especially from Mexico. Many useful institutions and material improvements and embellishments of the city are mainly due to Captain General Don Miguel Tacon, such as the fire company, established in 1835, the theatre which bears his name, and several of the finest public promenades.