janeKAY, Jane Holtz 74, of Boston, sister, mother, and friend, lost her long struggle against Alzheimer's Disease on Sunday, November 4. She battled to remain her own vibrant self, but Alzheimer's makes no allowance for the smart, funny and talented soul that she was.

Jane was a journalist, author, architecture critic and committed preservationist. Born in Boston in 1938, she was a magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College. She began her journalism career at the Quincy Patriot Ledger. She was architecture critic for the Boston Globe for several years and planning and architecture critic for The Nation for three decades

In her seminal book, "Lost Boston", she chronicled and lamented the buildings that had been taken down by the bulldozers and pleaded for those that remained in the city that she loved and made her home. As author of "Asphalt Nation" she made her reputation as a committed urbanist, advocating for the policies that enhance the city experience: fewer cars, more and better mass transit, urban planning that encouraged walking and wiser highway development.

She leaves two daughters, Julie Kay of Brooklyn and Jacqueline Cessou of Paris, France; a sister, Ellen Goodman of Brookline and four grandchildren, June Kay Fergus and Fiona Fergus Kay, Thomas and David Cessou.

Her life will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Bigelow Chapel in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

Contributions in her memory may be made to WalkBoston, Old City Hall, 45 School Street, Boston, MA 02108


From the Boston Globe:

Jane Holtz Kay, architecture critic and author
By Bryan Marquard | NOVEMBER 16, 2012

Gazing at a nighttime skyline, Jane Holtz Kay might glimpse a lit steeple that “transforms the architecture of the evening,” its gentle beauty adding to Boston’s “smudged but endearing glamour.”

With homegrown love backed by extensive research, her lyrical writing celebrated, and sometimes chastised, the city that was her home.

“Boston was a maze of masonry and greenery, unwinding endlessly as a child’s vistas unwound,” she wrote in the preface to “Lost Boston,” her book-length meditation on the city’s vanishing architectural heritage. Recalling the sights that made up her own early memories, Ms. Kay asked: “When does a child realize that the frame for all these splendors is architecture?”

In books and in her architecture criticism for the Globe and The Nation magazine, she was at once a preservationist, a historian, and a guide toward what she hoped would be a more sensible approach to endless urban evolution.

“She was one of the people who helped preserve the best of Boston and promote Boston as a city where the beautiful old could coexist with the entrepreneurial new,” said her younger sister, Ellen Goodman, a former Globe columnist. “I think Jane in her work helped save Boston, not to be too dramatic about it.”

Ms. Kay, who in 1991 gave up her car to more fully embrace city living in the Back Bay, died Nov. 4 in the Springhouse senior community in Jamaica Plain. She was 74 and had Alzheimer’s disease.

Bringing to her writing both practical experience and a philosophical commitment to an urban existence, Ms. Kay contributed a chapter to the 2003 book “Toward the Livable City.”

“Is the city cacophonous? Irritating? Disrupted? Yes. Is the glass half full? Half empty? Yes, of course, both, and at the same time. Name it what you will, but add one thing: it is also this fragile planet’s last, best hope,” she wrote.

City living, she believed, is “the only alternative to settling on the ever-contracting fringes, consuming the last chance landscape, extinguishing resources and species. If we are ever to become ecofluent, as the green warriors put it, the strengthening of our lived-in cities is where it must take place.”

Despite her affection for cities, she had a sharp eye for miscues, and shook her head as Boston let advertisers turn every spare space, from kiosks to light poles to bus stops, into mini-billboards.

“Call it the spamming of Boston,” she wrote for the Globe in 2003.

“This is how the city slides,” she added. “Not with a bang, but inch by inch, row by row.”

Born in Boston, Ms. Kay was the older of two daughters and grew up in Brookline. Her father was a lawyer who served in the state Legislature and ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

Campaigning with him took her “from the tree-shaded houses of Jamaica Plain to the tenements of Mission Hill,” she wrote in “Lost Boston,” and provided an “education of the eyes.”

She graduated from what was then the Buckingham School for girls and went to Radcliffe College, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1960, majoring in American history and writing a thesis on Lewis Mumford, a renowned 20th century cultural critic and urban authority.

“That probably started her down the road of thinking about city planning and art and architecture,” her sister said.

Ms. Kay worked as a reporter for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, married, and had two daughters: Julie, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jacqueline Cessou, who lives in Paris.

After the birth of her daughters, Ms. Kay worked mostly as a freelance writer and author. Her marriage ended in divorce.

“I think everybody who knew Jane knew that she was wonderfully lively and funny and engaging, and at the same time really committed to her work,” her sister said.

In the emotional architecture of Ms. Kay’s life, the wall between work and home was thin.

“So much of what my mother was professionally was what she was personally,’’ Julie said.

That was particularly true with “Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take it Back,” the 1997 book Ms. Kay wrote in the years after she gave up her car.

“This is not a proposal for nostalgia,” she wrote in the concluding chapter. “It is a search for creative forward motion to shape the way we transport ourselves and hence live.”

In an e-mail, Kenneth T. Jackson, a history professor at Columbia University, said “Asphalt Nation” was “a powerful and persuasive indictment of the car culture that came to dominate and define the United States in the 20th century. Quite simply, Jane Holtz Kay called it as she saw it.”

As she walked from her home on Marlborough Street to work and nearly every place else, Ms. Kay interacted with the city “in a much more visual and visceral way,” her daughter Julie said. “What she experienced, and what I learned from her, is that it really is a better lifestyle. You see more and you experience more.”

At home, Ms. Kay had a “love of colors and crafts and things around her,” Julie said. “She also always had one or two cats hanging around.”

Ms. Kay “had a very strong aesthetic sense,” said Dorothea Hass, who cofounded the pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston and for many years shared office space with Ms. Kay not far from Faneuil Hall. “Her apartment looked lovely. She put herself together in a very artful way in terms of her clothes and so forth.”

Haas added that Ms. Kay “was intellectual, eccentric, loyal, and always very willing to help out. And she was full of fun.”

A service has been held for Ms. Kay, who in addition to her sister and two daughters leaves four grandchildren.

During her years as a critic and author, writing in an office with others around, Ms. Kay shared her precise editing talents and would just as easily give away a sweater she thought looked better on someone else.

“It was a wonderful time, and I don’t think we appreciated it at the time, but that’s how life is,” Hass said. “You don’t think that eventually this is going to end.”

Ms. Kay was “very caught up in her identity as a writer,” Hass said, and “really believed she would never retire, that she’d be one of those little old ladies railing against the corporate world, and the tall buildings, and the hardening of the urban landscape.”

From the New York Times:

Jane Holtz Kay, a Prophet of Climate Change, Dies at 74
Published: November 20, 2012

Jane Holtz Kay calculated in her 1997 book, “Asphalt Nation,” that in less time than it takes you to read this sentence, Americans riding around in cars and trucks will dump another 180,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — and thereby accelerate global warming and hasten the advent of catastrophic flooding in coastal cities like New York.

Ms. Kay, an architecture critic who died in Boston on Nov. 5 at 74, based her prediction on government statistics and well-established scientific evidence. Her book, subtitled “How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back,” proposed ways to reverse the environmental damage caused by suburban sprawl: by returning to the city, using public transit, living one’s daily life, as much as possible, within walking distance.

But, like so many other messengers, Ms. Kay said she felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. People either believed they were “powerless to do things” about the looming disaster, she told an interviewer, or were angry at her for being such a Cassandra-like scold. “ ‘This is kind of old stuff,’ ” she quoted them as saying. “So — ‘So what?’ ”

Ellen Goodman, Ms. Kay’s sister and a former columnist for The Boston Globe, said Ms. Kay had grown up and raised her own children in the suburbs but decided to give up her car and move to an apartment in Boston when she began writing “Asphalt Nation” in 1991. Ms. Goodman said her sister was one to act on her ideas: “She was a big believer in doing things.”

She died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease, Ms. Goodman said.

Ms. Kay wrote three books on conservation of natural resources and urban environments. “Lost Boston” (1980) was a love letter to the many architectural treasures demolished in her native city in the rush to build roads, malls and parking spaces, and an appeal to make future changes with the human biped in mind. With Pauline Chase Harrell, she made a similar appeal in “Preserving New England” (1986).

“Asphalt Nation,” considered her most ambitious book, offered a unified vision for saving the cities and the planet and achieving social harmony by overthrowing the cultural dominance of the internal combustion engine. “Here at the so-called top of the food chain,” she wrote, “the water we drink, the food we eat, the entire way we live, is corrupted by a toxic artifact. The car, its pollutants, its highways, its trips.”

The revered urbanist Jane Jacobs, the author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” said Ms. Kay’s book had “given us a profound way of seeing the automobile’s ruinous impact on American life.”

Jane Holtz was born in Boston on July 7, 1938, the elder of two children of Jackson and Edith Holtz. In the 1950s her father, a lawyer, twice came close to winning election as a Democrat in what was then the Republican-held 10th Congressional District in Boston. (The seat has been held since 1981 by the Democrat Barney Frank, who is retiring and will be replaced in January by Joseph Kennedy III.) Ms. Holtz graduated from Radcliffe in 1960, began her career in journalism at The Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger, and worked for many years as an architecture critic, first for The Boston Globe and later for The Nation.

In addition to her sister, survivors include two daughters, Julie Kay and Jacqueline Cessou, and four grandchildren.

Until three years ago, when illness kept her from working, Ms. Kay was working a follow-up to “Asphalt Nation,” called “Last Chance Landscape.” Its subject was global warming, and how it was likely to change our lives sooner rather than later.