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Photos courtesy of Daniel Avila and NYC Parks Department

Hell Gate is so much more than a bridge.

Stretching over the East River from Astoria to Randalls Island, this steel span is the inspiration for countless urban legends, including ghost stories, phantom trains, sunken ships and even demons that kidnap teenagers. Now it is turning 100 years old and it deserves a proper celebration.

Historians, tour guides, architecture buffs, artists, and general Astoria enthusiasts have formed a coalition to create A Hell Gate Bridge Centennial Program, which will present a string of lectures, exhibitions, walks, and other activities to mark this milestone. The goal is to hold at least one event a month until next summer.

It’s still a work-in-progress, but here is the current schedule. Other events will be announced once the details are confirmed.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society and the Astoria Park Alliance will host two free walks on Sunday, Sept. 11. The 2 p.m. tour will focus on the buildings and neighborhood around Astoria Park. Two hours later, a second walk will focus on the area’s history, public spaces, and waterfront.

Dave “The Bridge Man” Frieder has been photographing New York City overpasses since 1993. On Monday, Oct. 3, he will unveil his exhibit Building the Hell Gate Bridge at 6:30 p.m. at GAHS, 35-20 Broadway, Fourth Floor. Then at 7 p.m., he will talk about Hell Gate’s construction with a special guest.

Richard Melnick, who has written various books about Queens history, will lead The Haunted Waters of Hell Gate on Saturday, Oct. 29, at noon. This Halloween-inspired stroll passes through historical sites of murder and mayhem along the Long Island City/Astoria waterfront. While walking along the East River, Melnick will tell stories of tragic deaths, churning whirlpools, and electric eels. Meet under Hell Gate Bridge at Shore and Ditmars boulevards. The fee is $15 per person, but only $5 for those in costume.

Built in 1917, the 1,017-foot-long Hell Gate Bridge was the longest steel arch span in the world at the time. Later it was targeted for demolition by the Nazis during World War II. Currently, it is owned by Amtrak and part of the train company’s Northeast Corridor line.

For information on other events related to A Hell Gate Bridge Centennial Program, check out the GAHS website or continue reading QNS.com.

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