Ellis Island has had numerous names throughout its history. Its current iteration was established in the 1770s, when Samuel Ellis became the island's private owner. The Federal Government purchased the island in the early 1800s to fortify its harbor defenses, and when it took over immigration control from the State in 1890, immigrant arrivals were shifted to Ellis Island. The original 1892 wooden structures actually burned down five years after being erected.
Opened, Jan 2, 1892
Burned, June 15, 1897
Rebuilt, Dec 17, 1900
The second set of buildings were built in 1900. The island's original 3.3 acres were built up with landfill to 27.5 acres to accommodate the more than 12 million arrivals who would pass through in the decades to come, bearing witness to the change from the Irish and German arrivals of the mid-century to new hopefuls from Italy and Eastern Europe. Ellis Island shut its doors as an immigration facility in 1954.
After decades of decay, Ellis Island's main building was restored and refurbished by Beyer Blinder Belle, reopening in 1990 as a museum and historic destination.