The Georgia pine burned in 6 hours. Statue of Liberty Dollar Coin

The Statue of Liberty Commemorative Dollar Coin showed the iconic Ellis Island building behind Lady Liberty with her torch held high.

But, this was not the first immigration building on the island.

Shortly after the passage of the Immigration Act of 1891 that established the Office of Immigration, work began on Ellis Island to prepare a place for immigration processing.

Before the building construction began, they doubled the size of the island with landfill. In addition, they dredged for a ferry slip and added a dock next to the main building site.

For expediency, they renovated some of the older buildings already on the island for support functions.

They constructed the new main building for greeting the immigrants out of Georgia pine.

The wooden structure was different in many ways from that shown on the coin; however, like the structure of today, the original had tall towers at its corners.

The new wooden immigration structure opened on January 1, 1892 to welcome and process the people desiring a better life in America.

Due to economic difficulties, the Office of Immigration saw less than 20,000 people annually arrive at the Ellis Island facility in the early years.

Sadly, though, in June 1897, a fire rapidly burned through the Georgia pine complex in six hours. Luckily, no one died in the fire.

Quickly, the federal government solicited bids for a new structure built of fireproof materials.

The new Main Immigration Building opened in December 1900.

As the number of immigrants increased, more facilities were necessary.

They continued to add land to the island for the addition of more buildings such as medical and administration facilities.

Before Ellis Island closed, the federal immigration office processed almost 12 million people from 1892 to 1954.

Some notable immigrants through the island were Frank Capra, Bela Lugosi, Baron Von Trapp, Irving Berlin, Max Factor, Claudette Colbert, Rudolph Valentino, Igor Sikorsky and Bob Hope.

Twenty-four years ago on September 10, 1990, the Main Immigration Building re-opened as a museum after the completion of a seven-year, $156 million restoration project.

The Statue of Liberty commemorative coins helped, at least in part, fund the restoration of the building.

The legislation specified surcharges of $35 for the five-dollar coin, $7 for the one-dollar coin and $2 for the half-dollar coin.

The US Mint collected the surcharges, and the Secretary of the Treasury paid the funds to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

Here’s the obverse of the Statue of Liberty Commemorative Silver Dollar coin with the Ellis Island Main Immigration Building in the background.

Statue of Liberty Dollar Coin Ellis Island