With a longing for television, a medium they did not yet know, or a train ticket to California, the thousands of Husky fans squeezed here within the limits of Seattle’s Times Square, settled instead for the The Times Automatic Football Player. Displayed to the masses from a hut attached to the northeast corner of the Times Building, the Player was a creation of this newspaper’s Sports Section. It showed the vital statistics of a game on a gridiron – somehow. Variations of the player were also used for baseball, prizefights and elections.
On the far-right of this week’s featured Webster and Stevens Studio photograph (at the top), you can see a cross-section of the Player’s “projection booth” (we will call it) attached to the elegant terra-cotta tiles of The Times Building, The year is either1923 or 1925. We are not yet sure. Both the candidate games were with the California Bears, and played on the University of California’s Berkeley campus. The Seattle Times for November 16, 1923 promised with a banner headline across the paper’s front page that witnessing the “big game reproduced play by play on the Times Automatic Football Player” would be “the next best thing to going to Berkeley.”
For the November 14, 1925 game with the Bears, The Times estimated that “an estimated 80,000 Seattle fans crowded to listen as the key plays were shouted from an upper window of the Seattle Times Building.” With this report the newspaper also provided a photograph of “a young woman using a megaphone to describe the game to the Seattle fans.” That doesn’t seem so “automatic.” The detail of a panorama of Times Square under the crush of Husky fans seems similar enough to the pan featured here that we will now choose 1925 with something resembling confidence. (Just now in media res our dancing diplomatic advisor Gavin MacDougal advises us, “Further evidence that today’s ‘then’ is from 1925, not 1923, would be in this column: Nov. 20, 2010. There the first line says that the Medical Dental Building (which dominates the “then”) was completed in 1925.)
Cliff Harrison, the Sports Page Editor, did not see the game from a newspaper window, but rather from the Bear’s stadium. When the Huskies won Harrison was more than excited. He concluded his report, “Tears roll down my check, but I can’t help it.” In the next day Sunday Times Harrison rejoiced, “The Golden Bear is no longer the champion of the West, the uncrowned king of football. On top of the world tonight sits a silver-tipped husky, the grandest of all dog kind, the symbol of a football leadership for the University of Washington, which today defeated California 7 to 0.” The editor played with the purple part of the team’s colors. “They are supreme in the West, great, big-hearted strong-muscled men of the Northwest, men who broke the heart of what was once the champion, men who knew no defeat, who knew no fear as a great hostile crowd booed them for deeds they never did.” The Times recommended that it would soon be time for Eastern Teams – like Dartmouth and Harvard – to “BOW DOWN TO WASHINGTON.”
Please join Paul and me for our 12th annual gathering of the rogues! Also in the mix are Kurt Beattie, Julie Briskman, Bill Radke, and our house band Pineola!
A slight change up this year: we’re asking our audience for stories of mishap, mayhem, and mistletoe mischief. Please submit your holiday tales of woe – 500 words or less – for consideration. If selected, it will be performed live at the show by Bill Radke or Julie Briskman, and later be aired on the KUOW ‘Speaker’s Forum’ Christmas edition! Submit your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps the date, May 16, 1950, scribbled on the unsigned note accompanying this early portrait of Northgate’s “Miracle Mile”, may be slightly off. The view looks north from the center of Seattle’s first shopping mall during its, it seems. late work-in-progress. On the far left a temporary footprint map of the center is propped up to face east across the center’s ‘Main Street’ to the Bon Marche, largest and most polished of the malls structures. Built for three million dollars, the Bon was the new shopping center’s ‘anchor’ retailer. Most of the Mall’s lesser, but still large, parts kept to Quonsets, one of World War 2’s architectural preferences. Pre-fabricated Quonsets that could be easily assembled as pre-fabricated huts or expanded to the size of warehouses like the future Nordstrom Shoes, here on the left. Northgate’s superlative Bon was never a Quonset.
Historylink, Washington State’s non-profit webpage encyclopedia of our state’s history, has the retail magnet opening on April 21, nearly a month before the photograph’s date claim. “Designed by John Graham Jr., Northgate was the country’s first regional shopping center to be defined as a mall.” The opening was shown on KING TV, then on the air for less than a year. A Cadillac was given as a prize. Some of the stores startled their shoppers with electric-eye doors. A Christmas tree of world’s record size – it was claimed – was raised above this Bon-fronting part of the mall. It’s 212 feet were featured in Life Magazine. The tree was captured with both day and night recordings for the Ellis studio’s state-wide distribution of “real photo” postcards. Ellis’s other Northgate Christmas card was captioned “World Largest Santa Claus – North Gate Shopping Center – Seattle Washington.” This Santa’s glorification does not seem to have been so truthful as that of the tree. Ron Edge, a frequent aid to this feature’s repeating, remembers, “Kids are still probably having nightmares from Northgate’s oversized Santa. With its menacing eyes it looked like a maniac.”
The Seattle Times for February 22, 1948 first reported that the “curtain of secrecy which has enveloped the mammoth project was pulled aside” revealing “the biggest suburban development of its type in the U.S.” The term “mall” was most often used for the north-and-south center-line of the development. In the early 1980s when I first began delivering freshly published now-then books to Seattle bookstores, I was thrilled to learn that running below the mall – the north-south center line of the by then lavish development – was an austere tunnel designed for speedy deliveries to Northgate’s many retailers, which then still included both chain and independent book stores.
From its start in 1950 Northgate showed an often wild popularity that stuffed its surrounding parking lots with thousands of visitors. It was a retail flood that would soon pain the established shops in the University District, Northgate’s competing retail neighborhood to the south. Northgate’s many remodels created a covered and heated expanse of attractions. Besides the shoppers its comforts were used by seniors for winter walks, and exploring groups of teenagers practicing consumer – and human – development.
There’s some arterial tension in this “then.” Is the open and yet covered pick-up van on Occidental Avenue pausing with a full stop or advancing toward Yesler Way? Is the driver trying to encourage the clutter of pedestrians to “move it” onto the Seattle Tacoma Interurban cars parked at their Seattle terminus?
This is nearly the center of Seattle’s skid road district. It was a manly neighborhood and here in the fetured photo at the top it seems that it is all men who are boarding the parked common carriers about to head for Tacoma or some suburban stop on the way.
Skid Road was originally named for the greased logs that were laid to shoot timber off First Hill to Seattle’s waterfront mills. There survives remarkably – or distressingly – little pioneer evidence on where Seattle’s first skid road was constructed. A convivial scholars’ debate endures between those choosing Washington Street and the more popular Mill Street, aka Yesler Way. Whichever, the sliding log delivery most likely came close to crossing over this part of Occidental, a popular name for European immigrants who immigrated west to America from somewhere between Moscow and
Galway. Originating at Yesler Way, Occidental Street ran south into the then not yet reclaimed tidelands beyond King Street. By the time this busy street scene was shot, the neighborhood was long free of its slippery salmon oil and log deliveries. (Again, we confess to not knowing the date for the featured snapshot from the circa 1920s,)
Many Asian merchants serviced the Skid Road district. Seattle’s first Chinatown was just around the corner, east on Washington Street. There were loan shops, barbers, oyster bars, and plenty of bar-bars where a free lunch might come with whatever drink one ordered – usually beer – and many of them. Here professional bar bands competed for audio space and “keep the faith” souls with parading ensembles of Salvation Army brass players and drummers. Adding to the percussion, the corner to the left rear (southwest) of the photographer was Seattle’s “Hyde Park” platform for protest, polemics and the occasional police riot.
Besides the Interurban cars, this cityscape is limited to two pioneer landmarks. The one that obviously survived on the right side of Jean Sherrard’s repeat, is the Interurban Building, the 1892 creation of the English-born architect John Parkinson who arrived fortuitously in Seattle six months before its Great Fire of June 6, 1889. This red brick and sandstone Romanesque landmark was built for the Seattle National Bank, but after the Interurban’s completion from Tacoma to Seattle in 1901-02 it became the ticket office and waiting room for the Puget Sound Interurban Railway.
The wide façade facing south to Occidental Ave. from across Yesler Way is, of course, the still-mourned Seattle Hotel. Like Parkinson’s bank it too was built soon after the city’s great fire of 1889. Seventy years later it was lost to the modern urges that preluded the Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair. By comparison the strikingly puny “Sinking Ship Garage”, that replaced, it survives.
For forty-three years – 1911 into 1954 – this elegant box of bricks and tiles, the Metropolitan Theatre, was among Seattle’s favorite attractions, a venue for many sorts of shows. It was named for the Metropolitan Building Company, which held the lease on the University of Washington’s original campus. Pioneers first referred to the property as “Denny’s Knoll” for Arthur Denny, their founder-merchant-politician, that helped organize the giving of the knoll to Washington Territory for its first campus, and the state still owns its ten-plus acres.
Many of you are familiar, by photographs, with another ‘box’, the university’s first school building built in 1861 on this site. It was adorned with a bell-fitted cupola for the waking of students and calling of classes. The façade was fronted with four classical ionic columns that looked west to Elliott Bay from its elevated knoll. You can still visit the original columns, which are preserved in the present UW campus’ outdoor Sylvan Theatre. (Some may also wish to carry a flute, light incense and dance around them.)
After the University moved to its new and present Interlake Campus in 1895, the knoll waited another decade for the state to begin sharing its old campus with the expansion of the business district – for rents. Many activist students joined nostalgic alums then pushing to save the school’s first multifarious hall, aka, the box. The schoolhouse might have been saved with a move to the new campus or preserved at its original place on the old campus, If the latter, it would have hindered Stone and Webster’s 1911 construction of the Metropolitan Theatre. The northeast corner of the school’s first “box” overlapped the plans southwest corner of the Metropolitan Theater. The fact is that in 1909, with a little moving of the theater’s footprint by its New York architects, Howells and Stokes, there was still enough room on the campus for both the elegant brick box and the cherished clapboard one.
This Webster and Stevens Studio portrait of the theatre at the top of this week’s feature is easy to date – within four days. The clues, of course, are the posters pasted to the front of the theatre for promoting “Spring Maid,” a Viennese-inspired operetta on its west coast tour. Of course, It first stopped in San Francisco. While it was a light opera, the “Maid” was not a light haul, with a company of 94 and an orchestra of 35. Tickets ran from 50 cents to $2.00. The “Spring Maid” opened its four-day Metropolitan run on October 19, 1911. While it was the largest early performance to touch the Met stage, it was not the first event held there. On October 12, a Columbus Day show was staged by the local Knights of Columbus, and aided by history professor Edmond S. Meany, surely the most prolific public speaker in the history of the UW.
Any sample of the international talents that took to the Met’s stage would include many plays and foreign films. The Swedish movie “The Girl and the Devil” was projected at the Met in 1946. Tennessee Williams’ play “Summer and Smoke” was produced in 1950. Also that year, the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America performed at the Metropolitan. Many members ate and slumbered at the Olympic Hotel that since its construction in 1924 had a grip on the theater (as shown in last week’s “Now and Then.”) Byron Fish, the Times screwball humorist and reviewer, instructed the newspaper’s readers that “The S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.” was founded thirteen years before the bomb. Its members are “pioneers in the nostalgic wish to return to pre-atom bomb days.”
The Met was torn down in the fall of 1955 to enlarge the Olympic Hotel’s ballroom and build a better front entrance on the hotel’s University Street side. After its demise, the Metropolitan began receiving a long line of nostalgic citizen press coverage.
Anything to add, lads? Sure Jean. While we are on the edge of exhaustion we know – at least by your reports – that you work even harder. And here’s more of the same. (We may proof-read later.)
Here is another offering from the Webster and Stevens collection, held in the library of the Museum of History and Industry. Early in the twentieth century Webster and Stevens moved their studio into the Seattle Times Building and handled the newspaper’s editorial photography. Consequently, I had some hope that I’d be able to date this contribution by finding it printed in The Times. (As I have noted before, The Times can be searched online through the Seattle Public Library.) Nevertheless, while enjoying the pleasures of looking, I failed to find this photograph. Perhaps Webster and Sevens recorded it for the Community Hotel Corporation, which successfully hustled the Olympic’s 1924 construction with bonds
invested by more than 3,000 citizens. This local enthusiasm reminded some genuine old-timers of the ‘Seattle Spirit’ they had known in the late 1870s that supported Seattle’s struggles with what locals considered the neglect of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the competition with its company town, Tacoma.
Once the bonds started selling, the Italian Renaissance landmark went up with remarkable speed on acres that had been the first home for the University of Washington. The Times enjoyed its coverage on what it called “the hotel of Seattle’s dreams.” The construction began in earnest on April 1, 1923, on the 450-guest-room “hotel of its dreams.” The Olympic Hotel was built around the city’s by then cherished theatre The Metropolitan, seen at the top in the featured photograph.
The theatre was constructed in 1911 and closed in 1954 for the Olympic’s enlargement between its two wings. With its hurried construction, the hotel took on the elegant “dress of terra cotta tiles” near the end of February 1924, and by December 6, 1924, a dinner dance celebrated the opening of the Olympic, the city’s ‘grand hotel.’
I ordinarily travel with a sleeping bag and frankly know little of hotels. For an informed opinion on the now Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s status among local hostelries, I asked Tamara Anne Wilson, a friend who is also widely experienced in the professional virtues of local hospitality. From 1997 to 2003 Tamara kept several offices of her PR firm on the hotel’s twelfth floor. After naming and complimenting several other Seattle hotels, she concluded “there will never be anything like Seattle’s Olympic Hotel again. Valet, doormen and concierge that understand discretion, perfect classic martinis, comfortable seating areas that aren’t ‘trying too hard to be hip’.”
Finally, in the interest of ‘full disclosure,’ Tamara continues and concludes that in January 1960 when her father Lieutenant William Critch was preparing to ship to Okinawa with his bride of three months, Marlene Prosser, they got the order to leave instead for a preferred station in Hawaii. The couple celebrated with dinner at Rosellini Four-10 and a night at “the” hotel. The appropriate months later Tamara was born in Honolulu. “The Olympic was conceived for the carriage trade. I’m grateful I was conceived there.”
The creation of this column was documented by KOMO-TV’s Eric Johnson in an installment of his long running series, Eric’s Heroes. Thanks, Eric!
Anything to add, compadres? Yes heroic Jean for you and your admiring platoon of fellow recorders (aka shutterbugs) we will pull free from the archive a few more features from the neighborhood often on the key subjects (hotels and theaters.)
A note to readers: just a reminder that our new book, Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred, is available for pre-order now. Just click here, or tap the pre-order button on the right! Now back to our scheduled program…
(click to enlarge photos)
The first photograph of Lake Union recorded from Denny Hill was one of the many shots the famous itinerant Californian photographer Carlton Watkins made during his visit to Puget Sound in 1882. In spite of building an elevated platform on top of the hill to help him see and shoot the lake, only a glimpse of it is seen through a forest both selectively cut for the best lumber but also ravaged by a wind storm that flattened many of the trees on Denny Hill in 1879.
This Sunday’s feature (at the top) , was photographed in the early 1890s, looks north from Denny Hill to a Lake Union landscape dappled by a mix of virgin timber and pioneer construction. The Western Lumber Mill, the lake’s largest development, can be seen smoking at the south end of the lake. Built in the early 1880s, the mill escaped Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889 and overnight became the city’s principal supplier of the lumber that rebuilt what was already the largest town in Washington Territory.
In his caption on top at lower-left, photographer Frank LaRoche includes the name of his intended subject where he positioned his camera, and the address of his studio. With the help of other photographs, maps, and directories, it is possible to determine within a shout where LaRoche set up. The best clue to LaRoche’s location is the Gothic one, right-of-center: the Norwegian Danish Baptist Church
at the northeast corner of Virginia Street and 6th Ave. The city’s Sanborn Real Estate Map for 1893 gives footprints for the city’s structures, including the church and the homes to this side of the Baptists. From these footprints we may deduce that LaRoche was overlooking Fourth Avenue to the east. While behind him, gleaned from other sources, early construction proceeds on the 400-room grand Victorian hotel, The Denny named for the city’s principle pioneer founder Arthur Denny.
On the evidence of another photograph, taken about 1904 by Asahel Curtis from nearly the same spot, but higher, possibly from a ledge or window in the Denny Hotel looking east over Fourth Avenue, the considerably more developed neighborhood sits in a late afternoon shadow cast by the hotel. In three years the hotel
would be razed, along with much of Denny Hill. By the result of another regrade that straightened Westlake Avenue between the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Pike Street as far as Denny Way in 1906-7, the Baptist’s tidy sanctuary, threatened by public works pruning, was sold to George J. Hodge, a developer who razed the Gothic landmark. Hodge paid the congregation more than $7,000 for their exposed corner. Some of the largesse was used to build a new sanctuary near Denny Way and Yale Avenue, which I remember from the 1960s, in its last incarnation, as the BFD a pop music palace that sometimes featured psychedelic rock and roll.
Surely among those who take time to shape their opinions on architecture this façade of the Rhodes Store will excite some and alienate others. For the latter, the building’s five-floor front may be too congested with ornaments. I like them and have felt an enduring affection –- for a long as I’ve had a copy of the photograph — for the playful front of this 10 Cent Store. From 1924 to 1931 it faced east from the west side of Fourth Avenue where it sat two lots north of Pike Street. The store was named for four Rhodes brothers: Albert, Henry, William and Charles, mid-western farmers who moved to Puget Sound around 1890 to quickly become sibling-entrepreneurs in both Tacoma and Seattle. By 1900 they were flaunted as Seattle’s “leading tea and coffee house,” a success which should feature the Rhodes family in any history of Seattle’s preferred tastes.
The brothers’ first little Seattle storefront at 1325 Second Avenue, took a small part of the block-big Arcade Building. William was the manager of its bargain department although he was quick to explain, “We brothers have always worked together, pulled together financially and in business managements. Of course, we all look upon (up to) the big store Seattle knows as ‘Albert’s Store.’” The oldest brother Albert and his wife Harriet managed the “big store” which with its organ in the lobby will certainly still be remembered by many locals. The big department store was built in the late 1920s with an enlargement of the Arcade Buildings’ north half, the part facing Union Street, between First and Second Avenue
Earlier while dreaming of dimes, and preparing to open the family’s economy bazaar, William promised “We will even sell a good brand of tea and coffee for ten cents a pound on our opening day.” The door on Second Avenue first opened to the store’s10 cent assortment of dry goods, notions, furnishings, confectionary, china, glasses, kitchen needs and thousands of knickknacks on the morning of June 6, 1903. Twenty-one years later the second Rhodes 10 Cent Store, pictured here, opened on the fifteenth of December, 1924. The Times liked it, reporting “The building presents some new ideas in the design of Seattle retail establishments . . . The exterior of the building is of Italian Renaissance Style, and is faced in glazed terra cotta. One of the most striking features is the 24-foot arch recessed above the Fourth Avenue entrance, for scenic displays.”
The fair-weather mural framed here is one of only two photographs I’ve found of this ironically sumptuous 10 Cent store. The other appears in this newspaper and shows the arch fitted not with a beach scene but a Christmas tree. The Rhodes brothers second 10-cent store was short-lived perhaps from a combination of changing retail tastes, the sudden slam of the Great Depression in 1929 and an offer the brothers could not refuse. In the late fall of 1931 the Seattle Gas Company signed a one million dollar twenty year lease to turn this ornate show box into the Gasco Building. The ensuing remodel stripped the Rhodes building of its ornamental pleasures (for some) to become the gas company’s center for billing and exhibiting modern appliances. It first opened to the public in the spring of 1932. The official housewarming party started at noon with KOL radio’s Kiddies’ Hour and the then “well-known Negro entertainers, the Deacon Jones Quartet.”
Much of this Sunday’s Seattle Times Pacific magazine is devoted to our new book. You may notice our pre-order button just to the right, upon which all readers are welcome to click! Or our many events, to which all are, of course, invited! Also, check out our many illustrious blurbers, who seem to like us very much!
To celebrate its upcoming launch – next Sunday, October 28th, which is also Paul’s 80th birthday! – we’re reprinting our senior editor Clay Eals’ lovely introduction and, as always, click to enlarge photos:
The Seattle Now & Then story:
from simple pleasures to the truth
By Clay Eals
The late Seattle newspaper pundit and historian Emmett Watson once said it is fitting for a flourishing city to have a “sense of itself.”
“I’m not even sure what I mean,” he wrote in 1984, “but it has something to do with a feeling for its past, a curiosity about its origins, a pride in its present.”
Emmett’s sage advisory resounds today amid our city’s tangle of construction cranes, pricey digs and teeming tech jobs — a veritable frenzy of future-focused development.
So, what is Seattle’s “sense of itself”? People of all stripes likely would agree that it derives from the city’s unique lay of the land — the lyrical, physical contours that created a natural stage for urban beauty and demanded ingenuity for the shaping of a prosperous port.
In the bustling “now” days of our city, hordes of newcomers may give these enduring qualities only fleeting thought. But longtimers, with visions of “then” dancing through their experience, have a more deep-seated grasp.
They summon formative years when the post-World War II maxim was the glory of growth. A prominent case in point: the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair — drawing nearly 10 million to a gleaming Jetsons view of the future — trumpeted the trend. “Take a way-ahead look at tomorrow, just as if you were there,” crooned its catchy theme song.
But it didn’t take long, as baby boomers reached their 30s and 40s, for a generation clamoring for peace, equality and the environment to reach back in time to embrace and protect local icons and characteristics targeted by the business bulldozer.
Evidence in the 1970s and 1980s was undeniable. Seattle voters saved the Pike Place Market. The city council crafted a tough landmarks law. Grassroots heritage groups sprouted like spawning salmon. The past was becoming palpable.
Enter Paul Dorpat.
Today he is known as the indefatigable purveyor of what has become, over the past nearly 37 years, a beloved citywide optical institution entitled “Seattle Now and Then.”
Back in 1966, however, the 28-year-old was a newcomer to our city. Raised in Spokane by a father who commanded a preacher’s pulpit and a mother who devoted herself to public service, Paul was anything but resolute about his future.
He had considered the cloth while bouncing around Northwest colleges, but once here he applied his insistent conscience to the counterculture, founding the Helix underground newspaper near the University of Washington and launching the (pre-Woodstock) Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair in rural Sultan.
A freelancer throughout the 1970s, he was gravitating toward a life of painting and film when, as he puts it, a “serendipitous spin” gave him an immersive entrée into local history. As is typical in the tracing of Paul’s trajectory, this biographical juncture owed to the bidding and support of a friend.
College buddy Dick Moultrie was seeking to reopen the Merchants Café, reputed to be Seattle’s oldest bar, in downtown’s oldest and most fabled district, Pioneer Square. He asked Paul to investigate the backstory of the business. Unwittingly, a die was cast.
Paul found himself diving into classic Seattle history tomes by Murray Morgan, Bill Speidel and others. Soon, projects that pointed to the past and piqued his native intelligence and inquisitiveness began to spiral.
While assisting the groundwork of a sculptor, Paul became intrigued by the lowered hills of the Belltown district north of downtown, and he prepared a detailed article for the alternative weekly Seattle Sun on the city’s massive, early 20th-century regrades.
After learning of the thesis of a UW graduate student in architecture who was digging into Seattle projects that were never pulled off, Paul assembled a “Then, Now and Maybe” exhibit of photos and visionary sketches for a June 1980 event called CityFair at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.
The true turning point, however, came in fall 1981. Drawing from his budding collection of old images, Paul produced for the Mayor’s Small Business Task Force a sepia-toned booklet that displayed photographic collages of Seattle’s past. The charmingly titled publication, 294 Glimpses of Historic Seattle, sold for a clever $2.94, one penny per “glimpse.”
The response in that pre-internet era was phenomenal. Spotlighted in a column by the Seattle Times’ Erik Lacitis, the initial printing of 3,000 copies sold out in a flash. Eventually, 40,000 were snapped up, with proceeds going to charity.
It was the tangible beginning of an endearing pattern for Paul: He was simultaneously fueling and riding the wave of local interest in heritage.
There was no secret to his strategy. It was the photos — the city’s visual “sense of itself” coming alive.
“Each of these images is in some way quite precious, precious because of what it tells about the city,” Paul told Erik in 1981. “When I show this little book … to people who’ve never experienced the pictorial history of Seattle, … they are completely amazed. There is a sense of wonder that creeps across their faces. It spurs their imaginations, and they smile. … There are always new discoveries. Sometimes you see values that have been lost. But, happily, you see examples of things improved. It makes you respect the human effort that went into this city.”
With Erik’s help, Paul pitched a continuation of this concept to the Seattle Times. The paper’s Sunday magazine editor, Kathy Andrisevic, agreed, and the inaugural “Seattle Now and Then” appeared on Jan. 17, 1982.
That first weekly column showcased a formula that persevered through more than 1,800 installments and continues to this day:
Find a long-ago, well-composed “then” photo taken in the Seattle area.
Juxtapose it with a “now” image taken from an angle close to the original — a venerable art form known as repeat photography.
Add a brief, well-researched essay telling a story about the visual pair.
A key word in this recipe, a journalistic one, is “story.” In Paul’s lexicography, the story invariably centers on the common man and everyday life — and, not insignificantly, is leavened with gentle humor and layered with irony.
Presentation of the weekly feature has waxed and waned over the decades. Several dozen times, the magazine deferred the column for other priorities. In early years, “Seattle Now and Then” covered a generous two full pages but later shrank to one page and occasionally to two-thirds of a page. Thankfully, in recent years it has rebounded to a full page, sometimes more,. It consistently graces the magazine’s inside back cover, and all of the “nows” appear in brilliant color.
Through all the variations, the heartening constant is that those reading the 300,000 copies of the Sunday Seattle Times count “Seattle Now and Then” among its most popular features.
The column also maintains a fortified online presence transcending the Seattle Timessite to Paul’s own blog, pauldorpat.com, which allows magnified views of the “nows,” “thens” and countless other related images.
The launch of the blog 10 years ago also marked the full bloom of Paul’s partnership with Seattle teacher, actor and photographer Jean Sherrard, who has taken nearly all of Paul’s recent “now” photos and is the “now” photographer (and editor and production manager) for this commemorative tome.
Jean’s formidable skills, imagination, artistry, tenacity and equipment (not to mention a tall frame) have let him create captivating present-tense pictures. But his greatest asset may be the dedication and joie de vivre that he brings to his friendship with Paul. Recognizing this, Paul altered the voice of many of his later columns from “I” to “we.”
The dynamic of the Paul/Jean relationship is noteworthy yet typical. Though Paul jokes that his friends are few and “long suffering,” his basso-voiced personality is nothing if not mesmerizing and magnetic. This results in ties with many that reflect uncommon loyalty and affection.
Such bonds contributed to the persistence and appeal of “Seattle Now and Then.” Paul’s resulting stature led him into myriad offshoots, including countless regional talks and installations, three book-length column compilations (1984, 1986 and 1989) and other publications both slim (on First Avenue and the University Bookstore) and behemoth (the public-works epic Building Washington, 1998, with his wife, Genny McCoy, and Washington Then and Now, 2007, with Jean). He also produced a panoramic, two-hour video tour of 90 years of city history (“Seattle Chronicle,” 1992) and a one-hour KCTS-9 documentary on the first 30 years of the Bumbershoot Festival (“Bumberchronicles,” 2001, with Catherine Wadley and Jean).
At the core of Paul’s persona, however, is “Seattle Now and Then.” The “best of” volume that you hold in your hands is a culmination — a subjective selection and updating of the most compelling and essential of the 1,800 columns. By definition, it celebrates Paul’s lifetime contribution to inspiring all of us to both enjoy and champion the history of our city.
The occasion of this anthology is also personally momentous. It salutes a prolific track record that has required of Paul considerable initiative and fortitude.
Yet today, well into his 80th year, he doesn’t see it all as profound. He describes himself as merely “a sentimental guy” who long ago stumbled upon a vehicle to provide the “simple pleasure” of allowing people to imagine a visit to the past.
“It’s like hide and seek,” he says. “That’s a really deep motive in all of us, to figure out how things are hidden, where things have changed, what things are revealed.”
Of course, Paul is grateful for the popularity of “Seattle Now and Then” and the many doors it has opened for him. He also comprehends and revels in the societally therapeutic virtues of comparative history. How could he not?
“History is delightful,” he says. “It’s understanding. It’s actually the truth if you do it right, and the truth is progressive. It always is.” To that end, he cautions that elevating an old scene does not always make it more treasured than its more recent counterpart: “I don’t mind some things being knocked down.”
But lifting up the city’s heritage, Paul allows, is inherently altruistic. It also feeds his “pretty radical” personal politics, which he knows he can’t tout every week to a mainstream readership. “To some extent, I toe the line,” he says. “I don’t express what I really feel about the usury and avarice and stinginess of the 1 percent.”
Paul keeps other avocations in his sights, including his younger pursuits of painting and film editing. A hope he holds dear is to complete a mammoth online biography of the beloved Seattle folksinger, restaurateur and self-promoter Ivar Haglund.
His most substantial aim, however, is to secure the professional storage and cataloging of his enormous archive, so that citizens one day will be able to access everything in it, including all of the “Seattle Now and Then” columns, free of charge.
Underlying this archival quest is Paul’s yearning to inspire others throughout the region to likewise share their own local photos, films and ephemera — his version of vox populi (the voice of the people).
Through it all, “Seattle Now and Then” abides. Though Paul laments his flagging energy (“It doesn’t cook as quickly — my cuisine is always resting on simmer”), he has no plan to pull back from his weekly dispatch.
That’s fortunate for all of us navigating the seemingly relentless change of the city’s latest boomtown ethos, a time when each “now” threatens to become a “then.” We need Paul “now” for as long as humanly possible.
“I love Seattle,” he says. “It’s the multifarious topography, it’s all my friends I’ve made over the decades, it’s my knowledge of it — they’re the kinds of reasons we do all these things. This is my home.”
What better guide could we have to discover, and rediscover, Seattle’s “sense of itself”?
West Seattle journalist and author Clay Eals has been active with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society in West Seattle since its founding in the mid-1980s, when he was fortunate to begin his own collaborations and friendship with Paul Dorpat.
Standing side-by-side in the “now” for Jean Sherrard’s Nikon “repeater” are Laurie and Wayne Pazina, a couple that has been married and working together for nearly forty years. Laurie and Wayne met on a blind date arranged and given vision by a friend with good judgment. Wayne Pazina is a graduate of the UW’s School of Dentistry, the class of 1977. The couple renders its dentistry in a North Seattle clinic.
As anyone who has needed a dentist will know or suspect the DDS profession is fraught with stress. Understandably dentists may be affected by the trembling nerves in the chair beside them. But Docter Pazina has developed a unique assuaging way that helps him settle himself while also soothing the patients’ anxious hand-wringing ways. He tells them stories. Not always, of course, but when it seems called for. By now some of his returning patients make requests.
The frequent subject in the Doctor’s repertoire is Northwest history, the early part of it that runs from 1853 the year that Washington Territory was founded to the declaration of Washington’s statehood in 1889. An avid reader of northwest history, Dr. Pazina also pulls many of his narratives from the territorial ephemera that he collects: the newspapers, correspondences, photographs and art. With the art, for instance, he has a collection of paintings by Mark Richard Meyers, a Californian whose skilled paintings of Puget Sound pioneer schooners and maritime events are collected world-wide. Meyers long ago moved to England to help build a replica of Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde and stayed. He married a consulting historian’s daughter and became president of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Appropriately, Prince Philip has one of Meyers paintings while our dentist from King County has several. That in brief is one of Pazina’s shared stories.
This week’s territorial “then” is another. It was scanned by Ron Edge from the collection that Dr. Pazina has been assembling – and narrating – nearly as long as he has been tending to teeth. He explains that Seattle’s first hardware store had several owners before it was razed in the city’s Great Fire of 1889. Most likely this vested pair posing alt the front door were owners, but which ones? Pazina found his answer signed on the board propped on the sidewalk to the right of the front door. With magnification the
observant doctor discovered that the hardware store’s initials, “W & C” for the owners Wald and Campbell, were written there. Pazina concluded that the photo was most likely taken between 1880 and 1886, the years that Frederick Wald and James Campbell owned and ran the store together.
Anything to add, blokes? The blokes, neither of whom either smokes or uses snuff, did poke about their stuff and found some things that are old and not sold and yet could have a price.