120 years ago on December 7th, 1900
A new Ellis Island processing center opens after a fire destroyed the original wood buildings
These are the current brick and limestone structures seen on the island today, and were constructed at a cost of $1.5 million.
The main wooden structure itself had only been completed five years before the fire, and the cause of the fire in 1897 that destroyed the original wood buildings remains unknown. Nearly all immigration records held on the island dating back to 1855 were destroyed in the fire.
Although the new brick buildings were quite grand, the accommodations were still too small to process the influx of immigrants, and the physical size of the island itself continued to be expanded through 1934 as ship ballast and debris from subway excavation was dumped along the shoreline. New buildings were built as the island expanded and the need for services grew, and just seven years after reopening, Ellis Island would reach the peak of its immigration processing when 1.2 million new Americans were evaluated at the island throughout 1907, nearly identical to the number of new immigrants to the United States each year during the 2000s, despite the country now having a population 3.5 times larger than in 1907.