The Hell Gate Bridge and Railroad Viaduct span Randall’s Island Park approximately 100 feet above ground, with heavy piers of stone planted firmly in Astoria to the east and Randall’s Island to the west, and a viaduct stretching north into the Bronx. Its bowstring truss steel arch (1,017 feet long) crosses over the notorious ‘Hellegat’, a channel so named by Dutch sailors for the treacherous currents at this turn in the East River. Built initially for freight traffic, the bridge connects to the Bronx and Queens, with Randall’s Island as the keystone, providing a critical rail link for both passenger and freight along the 457-mile northeast corridor between Boston and Washington D.C. that continues to this day.

Designed by the architect Henry Hornbostel (1867-1961) and engineer Gustav Lindenthal (1850-1935) soon after they had completed the Queensboro Bridge (opened 1908), the Hell Gate Bridge opened in 1917. Its weighty proportions – the masonry pylons, the steel bowstring trusses resembling a triumphal arch, no less than four lanes of railway ties – were considered almost excessive for the time. The bridge and viaduct construction was a massive undertaking, involving an engineering team numbering more than 70 men, and countless laborers. The railway industry was at its peak – hence, the elegant detail of the piers (designed by Hornbostel) and the grand scale of the whole. Lindenthal, a self-taught engineer, configured the stately archway, which now stands in bold contrast to its younger sibling to the west, commonly known as the Triborough Bridge (built in 1936). Three days after the Hell Gate Bridge opened, the country entered World War I, and the four track bridge was immediately employed to convey troops to the port cities. The bridge came quickly into its own. From the bridge proper stems the viaduct – a long arcade of 100 foot high Romanesque arches made of sandy-colored concrete, recalling the form and grand march of a Roman aqueduct. The route beneath the arcade has been converted to the new Hell Gate Pathway, a dedicated pedestrian and bike path that runs through the monumental arcade, connecting to the larger waterfront pathway system that circles the Island. Slated for completion in 2013, the northern end of the Pathway will lead across the Bronx Kill via an at-grade crossing to the South Bronx Greenway — and onward to the larger Bronx Borough Greenway. This industrial corridor of steel trusses and concrete arches is now fashioned for shared use – above by freight and passenger rail traffic, and below by park pilgrims on foot and bicycle.

Read more here

Related Articles

Hell Gate Centennial Committee Holds Anniversary Fun Run

The Hell Gate Bridge’s 100th anniversary was celebrated in Astoria Park with the Hell Gate Road Runners, a Kids’ 100-Meter Dash and a 5K Fun Run through the park. The event also included a Little Ones Parade and a special Veterans’ Memorial Service. The first 300...

Best Photos of the Hell Gate Bridge Sought for Centennial Celebration

ASTORIA — The Hell Gate Bridge is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and a neighborhood group is asking residents to submit their best photos of the span as part of the ongoing centennial celebration. The Hell Gate Centennial Committee, which formed last year...

New Murals Celebrate Hell Gate Bridge Centennial

The base of the Hell Gate Bridge is getting a new look as it celebrates its 100th birthday. The New York Anti-Crime Agency teamed up with artists from all over the world to beautify the base of the bridge in Astoria Park. The Agency holds safety seminars and graffiti...

Hell Gate Bridge’s Centennial Has Strong Astoria Connection

One of the most important architectural sites on the East River is turning 100 years old.  Borough Reporter Ruschell Boone has more on the Hell Gate Bridge and its significance to the city and one Queens community. It's one of the city's iconic structures, and a...

Astoria Group Wants to Light Up Hell Gate Bridge

QUEENS — A community group in Astoria wants to show a local landmark some love — by lighting it up. The New York Anti-Crime Agency, a nonprofit that runs safety seminars and neighbourhood graffiti cleanups, is pushing to get lights added to the Hell Gate Bridge,...

Astoria’s Hell Gate Bridge Turns 100 This Week

Paragraph Summary: Happy birthday, Hell Gate!The Hell Gate Bridge, which stretches over the East River from Astoria to Wards Island, will celebrate its 100th year on Thursday, marking a century since officials celebrated its opening with a dedication ceremony in 1917....