The retired U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Lilac is arrived in Staten Island on Friday, Jan. 13 where she will be berthed for the winter, courtesy of Caddell Dry Dock and Repair on the Kill van Kull. Towing services for the trip are being donated by Miller’s Launch, based on Staten Island. This museum ship is owned by the non-profit Lilac Preservation Project, located on Staten Island since 2020.
Lilac is being restored to operating condition, largely with volunteer labor and donated supplies, services and funding. Winter work includes re-installing the bronze bow emblems of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, repairing equipment on the Boat Deck to accommodate a donated ex-Coast Guard surfboat, and welding new steel in to repair decks in Forward Berthing. Such work is greatly facilitated by access to Caddell’s services and to nearby marine suppliers. Staten Island’s Armorica Sales, for example, has generously provided marine-grade paint to the ship on more than one occasion.
This year, the typical summer program of art exhibitions is being set aside for a historical exhibit focusing on Lilac herself as she enters her 90th year. A companion exhibit about the Delaware River lighthouses and lightships that Lilac once cared for is planned for the National Lighthouse Museum in St. George. (Although based on the Delaware, Lilac did occasionally call at the U.S. Lighthouse Service’s Staten Island Depot that now houses NLM.) A menu of monthly events celebrating the ship’s 90 years of service launches in May when she returns to her home berth in Tribeca.
Lilac is the last surviving steam-powered lighthouse tender in America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Launched on May 26, 1933, she carried supplies to lighthouses and maintained buoys for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and then the U.S. Coast Guard until she was decommissioned in 1972.
Lilac is currently being restored as a unique vehicle for maritime education and community activities and is berthed from May to October at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 in New York City where she is open to the public for tours and other events.
For more information see www.lilacpreservationproject.org.