A steamship’s history

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The steamship Lilac served as a lighthouse tender until 1939.

Then the Coast Guard used it as a buoy tender serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II between 1941 and 1945. She was decommissioned in 1972 and is now docked at Pier 40 on the Hudson River in the South Village of New York City.

Lilac led several lives after her decommissioning Feb. 3, 1972: four months later she was donated to the Harry Lundeberg Seamanship School of Seafarers International Union at Piney Point, Md., where she served as a stationary facility to house and train union members. During that time, some staterooms were used as offices and two interior bulkheads were removed in the living quarters on the main deck to create classrooms, according to executive director Charlie Ritchie.

The school sold her in 1984 but she was bought again shortly thereafter on April 3, 1985 by Henry Houck of Falling Creek Marina in Richmond, Va. There she stayed until 1999 when she was advertised for sale in various maritime journals. It was at this point the Lilac was purchased by the non-profit Tug Pegasus Preservation Project.

See related articles:

- New York Harbor's seldom-told stories

- Act II for steamship Lilac

- Manhattan at work

- New York Harbor Voices

This article originally appeared in the Connecticut & New York Home Waters Section of the January 2010 issue.