A few years ago I was changing desk shifts with a librarian when a lovely older lady and her assistant approached the adult service desk, looking for some information on one of the most prominent families in Greenburgh’s past, The Warburg Family. I was more than happy to show her what we had in the Local History Collection. As we approached the room she revealed to me that she was related to Frida Schiff Warburg, the matriarch of the family who, in 1956, generously donated her estate to the people of our community. Eventually this became one of many catalysts for the merger of Greenburgh District #8 with the Hartsdale Public Schools in the late 1960’s, creating Greenburgh School District #7.
After showing her several articles I found in our files, I showed her some pictures from the book Greenburgh: A Glimpse of Our Past. The book was published in 1988 to coincide with the Town of Greenburgh’s Bicentennial celebration. The book has been one of my favorite (and primary) resources for information and photos of the history of the Town of Greenburgh. She looked at the pictures of the Warburg Estate, and marveled at them as the memories came rushing back to her. She remembered visiting the estate during the summers as a young girl. Swimming in the indoor pool and just walking around the many trails throughout the estate. But it was the picture of Frida posing with her children (pictured on the right), which brought her the most pleasure. She had never seen that picture, never knew of its existence, she told me with a twinkle in her eyes. To her, these people I only knew through some old black and white photo were very much real and alive to her, if only in her memory. She asked me if I could make a copy of the photo for her and I told her I had a better idea; I gave her the book (knowing I had multiple copies) knowing it brought her much joy to relive those days gone by.
As she was departing, I explained to her that some of the buildings on the old estate are still standing and being used to this day by the school district. I also told her that some remnants of the old stone wall, which made up the Central Avenue gate house entrance to the Warburg Estate, are located near the parking lot of Best Buy in Hartsdale (pictured below).
As I reflect on her visit so many years later, one of the most important lessons I learned that day is that whether one is looking through old family photos or pictures of a family long gone, to remember that the person was a real, breathing person and that in someone’s memory they are still alive, just like you and I.