Havana Fish Markets Photograph courtesy of Lake County
Museum, Henry, Illinois.
Curt Teich Collection.
The area of Havana was surveyed in 1827 for Ossian Ross, who started the
first business, a canoe ferry. The first settlement was named Ross' Ferry. The
island of Belle Rose was at the mouth of the Spoon River. Because the island
was shaped like the island of Cuba, locals named it Cuba. Locals eventually
called their town Havana because they were next to "Cuba Island." Havana was
incorporated as a town in 1848.
By 1900, the town was known as a fishing and hunting center, and
was actually the most important inland fishing port in the United
States. The economy boomed and the population peaked at about
5,000. There were hotels, bars, and gambling houses to entertain
the sport hunters and sport fishermen who enjoyed huge catches of
fish and game.
Havana was a bustling town during the first half of he twentieth
century. Among its businesses were four floating fish markets
(Watt's, Rudolf's, Shaffer's, and Riley's), five major grocery
stores (A & P, Glick's, Kroger's, Morgan's, and West's), three
movie theaters (Havana, Majestic, and Lawford), and three
drugstores (Wolter's, Deckard's, and Tarbill & Ermeling's).
In Havana's heyday, in the 1930s and 1940s, visitors and
residents parked their cars on the main downtown streets on
Saturday afternoons to get ready for an evening on the town
visiting with friends and patronizing the restaurants, bars, night
clubs, and gaming houses.