Farewell: Paul Dorpat looks back on nearly 38 years of ‘Now & Then’

Note: While this installment, as printed in PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times, is labeled as a farewell, this blog will continue to house Paul’s vast contributions to local history, from his columns to his many books. We hope and trust that he will continue making contributions to the blog whenever he has the time and inclination.


(click and click again to enlarge photos)

NOW: After 38 years, Paul Dorpat returns to the corner of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue, where “Now & Then” began. Dorpat is stepping away to pursue other interests, but “Now & Then” will carry on. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN: Paul Dorpat’s first “Now” photo has become his final “Then” photo, taken at the southeast corner of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue in late fall 1981. A coffee server at far right holds a “Then” print of the intersection. (Paul Dorpat collection)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 20, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 22, 2019)

Farewell: Looking back on nearly 38 years of Now & Then
By Paul Dorpat

What a fortunate fellow.

Beginning in the winter of 1982, my byline here was first delivered with the Sunday Seattle Times to the breakfast tables of the city. Now here comes the handle to turn this faucet off with my valedictory feature, the last one for me. (Don’t worry, though. “Now & Then” isn’t going away.)

Frankly, at the age of 81, I am tired, but only somewhat. Increasingly, my head is turning. I yearn again to paint and make music, pleasures I had more time for a half-century ago.

Certainly, my best fortune has been the frequent one of meeting many readers and being introduced by them to subjects often pulled from their own collections. Thanks largely to them, I have gathered a sizable archive, which I am now beginning to file and interpret for transfer to two scholarly institutions that I have used repeatedly.

My negatives and slides are headed for the Seattle Public Library, the voice of the people (or vox populi). My film and video (shot and collected) will get an appropriate new home in the University of Washington Library’s Northwest Collection. I once lived in their halls and am now returning with a plethora of cared-for subjects, often attached with carefully devised captions. I’ll continue to encourage others to place their archives with mine in the hands of skilled librarians for sharing with the community.

For this week’s “Then” photo, Jean Sherrard has chosen what was this Sunday feature’s first “Now.” I snapped this shot at the southeast corner of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue on what I remember as an unseasonably warm late fall day in 1981.

It appeared in the Seattle Times’ Pacific magazine (a predecessor of today’s PacificNW magazine) the following January, the first of about 1,800 “Now” photos, most of which made it onto the inside of the magazine’s back cover. It is still a cherished location. I learned the name of this coffee server who posed for me, although I doubt that I then knew anything as yet about the name of her profession: barista.

As late as 1984, I was still delivering my features to the Times by car, not the internet, and I was still writing them on a typewriter that sounded already nostalgic. Within three years, I was no longer delivering my stories in person, which meant I had practically no contact with other Times writers.

I was a freelancer and sometimes lonely. I occasionally hung around The Times’ wonderfully stuffed library in its old building at Fairview and John.

I’m now heading for the piano. Now I ask you, my dear old (at least potential) friends, to imagine your own sounds and send them to me. And please also imagine me motioning in your direction with this, my valedictory wave. Many thanks for your years of help.

And let us all thank this newspaper for continuing the “Now & Then” feature with the vigorous contributions of Jean Sherrard, clearly as fine a writer as he is a photographer, and Clay Eals, a master editor and superb storyteller who has helped me since this weekly feature began in 1982. Many thanks to all old friends and new.


Check out Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect with this column read aloud by Paul Dorpat.

Meanwhile, below, in chronological order, are 17 photos of Paul Dorpat and six clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that provide a look back on Paul’s life and “Now & Then” career. Enjoy!

A young Paul (left) with his three brothers, mother Cherry and father Theodore. (courtesy Paul Dorpat)
Paul, 37, poses with his father, the Rev. Theodore E. Dorpat, in about 1975. At right is his mother, Cherry Dorpat. (courtesy Paul Dorpat)
Jan. 5, 1969, Seattle Times, page 45
July 15, 1972, Seattle Times, page 10
April 29, 1977, Seattle Times, page 10
Sept. 17, 1977, Seattle Times, page 13
Paul after a public shave at his 40th birthday party in 1978. (courtesy Paul Dorpat)
Sept. 24, 1981, Seattle Times, Erik Lacitis column
Oct. 1, 1981, Seattle Times, Erik Lacitis column
Paul (left) poses with Seattle’s Murray Morgan, author of “Skid Road,” mid-1980s. (courtesy Paul Dorpat)
Paul makes a self-portrait, mid-1980s. (courtesy Paul Dorpat)
Footprints newsletter, Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 1992.
The Aug. 26, 2001, cover of the Seattle Times’ Sunday magazine, “Pacific Northwest.”
Paul speaks in December 2004 at the Alki Homestead restaurant in West Seattle. (Joey Allman)
Paul pitches July 26, 2009, at the annual Eals Eskenazi Extravaganza birthday softball game at Alki Playfield. (Jean Sherrard)
Paul and Jean Sherrard flank Berangere Lamont, their Paris-based photographer and partner in PaulDorpat.com, 2011.
Paul in Ivar’s baseball hat, Jan. 6, 2016. (screen grab, Jean Sherrard)
Paul presents a talk Feb. 7, 2016, at West Seattle Library on the Alki roots of Ivar Haglund, subject of a future biography by Paul. (screen grab, Clay Eals)
Paul speaks at a history presentation May 31, 2018, at Pike Place Market. (Clay Eals)
Paul speaks at a history presentation May 31, 2018, at Pike Place Market. (Clay Eals)
(From left) Clay Eals, Paul and Jean Sherrard pose before a history presentation Sept. 23, 2018, at Salty’s on Alki restaurant. (Patrick Sand, West Seattle Blog)
Paul displays the 2018 “best of” book he co-authored with Jean Sherrard, Oct. 14, 2018. (Clay Eals)
With the Pioneer Square Pergola as a backdrop, Paul poses May 31, 2018. (Clay Eals)

10 thoughts on “Farewell: Paul Dorpat looks back on nearly 38 years of ‘Now & Then’”

  1. Mr Dorpat, I want to thank you for all the years of adding a sparkle to my Sunday mornings. Each Sunday morning I awoke to that tightly rolled paper sitting in my driveway, my first thought was of what your contribution with Now & Then would be. You truly brightened up my Sunday. God bless you and may the sun be always on your back. Most sincerely, Fred Kmiechick

  2. Thank you ever so much, Paul, for entertaining and informing us over the years. And for replying to my sometimes ill-thought-out questions with equanimity! Best wishes for your new endeavors. Gene

  3. Paul your insight, contributions and perspective on Seattle history are invaluable to all who love and cherish the Pacific northwest. God bless you and the continuation of Now and Then.

  4. Mr. Dorpat, I met you years ago at your brother Dave’s birthday party when he was a Pastor at Resurrection Lutheran in DesMoines, Wa. I have enjoyed your column “Now and Then” for a long time and it was a pleasure meeting you in person.

  5. As much as I will miss your column on Sundays, I want to thank you for the gift of music you gave me. You were probably about 16 years old and a Lutheran camp counselor outside of Spokane WA. I was in the chapel and you came in and played your “stylized” version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata while I listened in rapture. I am now 74 years old and you changed my feelings for music ever more. Enjoy your new well deserved retirement.

  6. Paul –thank you for your years of incredible creativity and great journalism. You are a treasure of knowledge and information. You were so helpful to me when we were trying to do a piece on St. Vinnie’s—with the photo of our first Salvage Bureau store at First & Battery and what is there now—the Sarajevo Lounge. Great time!! We wish you the very best—we will be celebrating our 100th year with our Centennial in 2020!
    Thanks for everything.

    Jim McFarland

  7. Paul,
    Seeing the stripped canopy of the cart at 4th and Pike (in your first Now and Then photo) I was reminded of the popcorn cart that was at the southwest corner of Rainier Square for many years. I was terribly disappointed when it disappeared. There was always a line during lunch time – and the popcorn was the best. Thanks for the memories.

  8. The end of an era!! I was in college when you started the column…my dad was a huge fan and got me hooked too! I still remember your generosity in trying to help me track down whether the house that once sat at the NW corner of Aloha and Queen Anne (where I once rented the main floor apartment) was ever part of the Kinnear estate. I only expected you might point me in the right direction, but you ended up sending me jpegs of the assessors map, photos from different angles from back then etc. If memory serves, we were emailing back and for several days! And If my experience is any indication, I can well understand why you didn’t have much time for other persuits! Bravo for all the enjoyment you’ve given so many…and for making time now for all the things that give you joy!

  9. Dear Paul Dorpat,
    I miss you still. Been following your writing and pictures since the late 70’s. I hope you still have your hands still in stuff.
    The Hawaiian girl you met 1979.

  10. I was secretary at Bethany Lutheran Church at Greenlake when you came in to visit and get information from Pastor Dennis Andersen about 25 years ago. So glad I got to meet you, since I’d been following you for many years before that!

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