Alan Rabinowitz died peacefully in his home in Seattle on Nov. 29 after a long illness, surrounded by family. He was 90.

Alan loved his summer house on Dancing Hill at the end of Christiantown Road in West Tisbury that he bought in 1956. It was the one home that connected all the threads of his life, across changes in family, career and location.

Born in New York, he first came to the Vineyard as a teenager during a sailing trip from Cape Cod in 1942. In 1951, he married Andrea Wolf, another New Yorker who had summered on the Island with her family since 1929. In the early 1950s, during Vineyard vacations with Andrea and her parents Nancy and James Wolf, he fell in love with the Island. The couple rented three different cottages in Menemsha over successive summers, as their family grew. One day in 1955, Alan and Andrea, feeling adventurous, coaxed their Ford through the dense brush overgrowing the section of Christiantown road past the Mayhew Chapel until the dirt road stopped at the top of a hill. Hemmed in by brambles of grapevines and blackberries, they couldn’t see more than a few yards until they climbed to the roof of an empty house perched atop the hill and discovered spectacular views of Vineyard sound, the Elizabeth islands and the mainland beyond.

The following summer, they heard from a friend that Mary Guerin, the proprietor of the Mary Guerin Inn on the Beach Road at Eastville was selling her property on Christiantown Road. Realizing that this was the house they had climbed to see the view, they contacted her and purchased the property.

At that time, there were no other houses on Christiantown Road, so there was work to do. A large project ensued from this, clearing fields and ponds with Harold Rogers and installing telephone poles for phone and electricity all the way to the house from Indian Hill Road, a mile away. The White Brothers’s steam shovel dug a well for drinking water, despite predictions that there was none to find. Alan and Andrea removed several old stoves and a glassed-in porch full of broken chairs from the house. Then they added four simple bedrooms made of Masonite and two-by-fours, which were built by Lawrence Winterbottom.

Soon other houses sprung up along Christiantown Road, including the homes of Joe Eldredge, Ann Hopkins, Alan Miller, Stefan Baumrin, and Danny Prowten. While the community of hill people grew, the upper road retained its wild beauty and solitude.

Alan loved Dancing Hill, and spent summers there almost every year until last year. A typical day could involve an early morning swim at Quansoo or Gay Head, clearing trails or fixing broken windows or doors, beach picnics, and conversations about Island life with neighbors and friends such as Ann and Sam Hopkins, Suzanne Fenn, Bucky Burrows, Tom Chase, Gus Ben David, and Joe Eldredge. After he moved to Seattle in 1971, he and Andrea made over 25 cross-country driving trips to get to the Island for summer vacations, reading books to each other and stopping along the way to visit friends and family. And during rainy Seattle winters, he kept in touch with the Island through his regular reading of the Gazette.

He was passionate about land use and ecology. The preservation of natural habitat and open land was one of his causes. Living on the Island in a simple way, on a hilltop exposed to the elements, were some of his greatest joys. He also loved sailing Tisbury Great Pond in the Res Ipsa, the Cape Cod MK rowing dinghy that he bought with the journalist Anthony Lewis.

In his professional life, Alan was an urban economist and former chairman of the Department of Urban Planning at the University of Washington. He is the author of seven books on topics ranging from municipal bond finance to social change philanthropy. He was active locally and nationally in social change philanthropy, serving on boards of nonprofits such as the National Network of Grantmakers, and traveling to Eastern Europe and Native American reservations in the U.S. to work on economic development and grassroots empowerment projects.

Alan is survived by his beloved wife Andrea, children Eric, Peter and his spouse Nelly, Martha, and Katherine and her spouse Ramesh, five grandchildren, and many step and great-grandchildren. His children have all spent cherished time on Martha’s Vineyard and continue to pass on this love of place to their offspring.

A service is planned for January in Seattle. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name can be given to the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, the Encampment for Citizenship (, P.O. Box 1210, Aptos, CA 95001 or the University Friends Meeting of Seattle. 4001 9th Avenue NE Seattle, WA. 98105.