If you think it sounds cool and interesting to roam around and explore a rusty old ship from the early 1930s well, you’d be right. It IS fun and interesting, as I discovered for the first time last week aboard the Lilac, which was once a working, steam-powered Lighthouse Tender–those were ships that “carried supplies and maintained buoys for the U.S. Lighthouse Service”–and is now a free, fun little museum docked at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 in Tribeca.
You don’t have to be some sort of nautical history buff to appreciate the Lilac; any fondness for industrial/urban adventuring will do. The boiler room, the bridge, the crew’s cabins, the room with the coffin (!?), the decks: it’s all open, still fitted out with original machinery, and you can touch just about anything you want. Kids, naturally, will have a blast and/or think it’s a little creepy. And the Lilac’s docked on the same pier as a terrific little playground, as well as a mini-golf course, a skate park, several beach volleyball courts, a turf lawn, and some comfy chairs by the water which are ideal for lounging and watching the sunset.
The Lilac is open from May through November, but if you go before August 24 you can also see some art aboard the ship. Called Dead In August and curated by Molly Surno, the exhibition highlights work by local artists, each of whom were given a room for whatever sort of installation they wanted. Some of these are more immersive and engaging than others, but I did like the Jordan Rathus video, and Maureen Cavanaugh’s elaborate transformation of a sleep cabin, and Chad Stayrook’s sculpture with embedded video (remnants from his performance on opening night) of a lighthouse.
The Lilac is located at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park, at North Moore Street in Tribeca, and is open on Thursdays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., and on the weekends from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. Admission is free, though donations for the Lilac’s ongoing restoration are appreciated. The art exhibition Dead in August will be on view through August 24. For more info on the Lilac, click here; for more on Site 95 and Dead in August, click here.