The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and the Plaza de la Catedral. 1900.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and the Plaza de la Catedral. 1900.

The original settlement of San Cristobal de la Habana was founded on St. Christopher’s Day in July of 1515 and slightly more than four years later was relocated to the city of the bay of Bahia de la Habana. Not surprisingly, the ports and bridges provided access as the early settlements sprung to life on the strength of the waterfront. Havana became a major stopping point for shipping between the Americas and Europe, as well as one of the most fortified cities in the New World.

By the late 1700s, Havana was taken over by the British. With the boom of wealthy Spanish sugar, Havana’s new age of affluence, prosperity and financial wealth was born. Havana’s growth period came during the 19th century with beautiful buildings springing up everywhere with new age elegance coming anew.

At the end of the 19th century, Havana witnessed the final moments of Spanish colonialism in America, which ended definitively when the United States warship Maine was sunk in its port, giving that country the pretext to invade the island. The 20th century began with Havana, and therefore Cuba, under occupation by the USA.

During the Republican Period, from 1902 to 1959, the city saw a new era of development. All endeavors of industry and commerce grew very rapidly. Cuba recovered from the devastation of war to become a well-off country, with the third largest middle class in the hemisphere, and Havana, the Capital of the country, became known as the Paris of the Caribbean. Construction was an important industry. Apartment buildings to accommodate the new middle class, as well as mansions for the Cuban tycoons, were built at a fast pace. This photo collection captures Havana around the time of its independence from Spain, showcasing its centuries of Colonial, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture.

The Paseo del Prado. 1900.

The Paseo del Prado. 1900.

The Plaza del Catedral. 1900.

The Plaza del Catedral. 1900.

Central Park and the Gran Hotel Inglaterra. 1900.

Central Park and the Gran Hotel Inglaterra. 1900.

Obrapia Street. 1900.

Obrapia Street. 1900.

Avenida Zulueta. 1900.

Avenida Zulueta. 1900.

Vendors' stalls in the Mercado Tocon. 1904.

Vendors’ stalls in the Mercado Tocon. 1904.

A meat wagon. 1903.

A meat wagon. 1903.

Residences on Paseo del Prado. 1903.

Residences on Paseo del Prado. 1903.

The machine wharf, 1900.

The machine wharf, 1900.

An ice cream vendor. 1890.

An ice cream vendor. 1890.

Fruit wagons unload outside a market. 1890.

Fruit wagons unload outside a market. 1890.

The Plaza de Luz. 1900.

The Plaza de Luz. 1900.

A coconut merchant's wagon. 1890.

A coconut merchant’s wagon. 1890.

The Mercado Tocon. 1904.

The Mercado Tocon. 1904.

Inside a jai alai hall. 1904.

Inside a jai alai hall. 1904.

A newsboy and soldiers in a plaza. 1900.

A newsboy and soldiers in a plaza. 1900.

The wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, which exploded and sank mysteriously on February 15, 1898. 1900.

The wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, which exploded and sank mysteriously on February 15, 1898. 1900.

Custom House Plaza. 1900.

Custom House Plaza. 1900.

A horse-drawn cab. 1904.

A horse-drawn cab. 1904.

A view from O'Reilly Street, looking down San Ignacio Street toward the Cathedral. 1900.

A view from O’Reilly Street, looking down San Ignacio Street toward the Cathedral. 1900.

Children in Havana. 1900.

Children in Havana. 1900.

Crowds on the Malecón. 1890.

Crowds on the Malecón. 1890.

Havana. 1899.

Havana. 1899.

Havana. 1904.

Havana. 1904.

Obispo Street. 1906.

Obispo Street. 1906.

A street corner merchant. 1904.

A street corner merchant. 1904.

A street cleaner. 1903.

A street cleaner. 1903.

Vegetable stands in Mercado Tocon. 1904.

Vegetable stands in Mercado Tocon. 1904.

A view looking north down the Paseo del Prado. 1900.

A view looking north down the Paseo del Prado. 1900.

A flower vendor. 1890.

A flower vendor. 1890.

An avenue of palms on the outskirts of Havana. 1903.

An avenue of palms on the outskirts of Havana. 1903.

(Photo credit: Library of Congress).