Capt. Mary Habstritt & Lilac Preservation Project
Award Year: 2013
NMHS New York Harbor Historic Ship Steward Award of Excellence
In 2013 the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary, and at that time honored eight pioneers with the NMHS New York Harbor Historic Ship Steward Award of Excellence. These forerunners identified important vessels in New York Harbor and with enormous sacrifice restored them and made them open to the public.
As stewards of the oldest and most intact surviving lighthouse tender, we have several “only” and “unique” aspects of the ship to share with the public. LILAC was the last reciprocating steam-powered vessel in the Coast Guard fleet. She is one of a handful of steamships capable of being put back into operation and we are working hard on reaching that goal. She is one of the only Coast Guard “black hulls” open to the public as a museum. Teaching visitors about the aids to navigation system, of which she was a part, is practical and enlightening. Even in New York City, a city of islands, most visitors have never seen a buoy and have no idea that they need tending or that this is one of the duties of the Coast Guard. We get to tell them! Over the years, we have moved from promoting our ship as “Steamer LILAC” to identifying her as the retired “U.S. Coast Guard Cutter LILAC.” This is not only more accurate, but connects with the public in a different way and draws them in. Now many visitors begin by telling us of a friend’s or relative’s—or their own—service in the Coast Guard, giving us common ground on which to begin telling the rest of the ship’s story. I am honored to be a keeper of this legacy tender.
— Mary Habstritt, Museum Director & President Lilac Preservation Project