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Eric's Heroes: As Seattle changes, two men show us 'then' and 'now'

Eric's Heroes: As Seattle changes, two men show us who we 'are' and who we 'were'

It seems like every time you look out the window, Seattle has changed.

The shape and look of King County is morphing before our very eyes.

For a long, long time, two men have documented our changes...measuring "now" against "then" to help us understand who we are, by showing us who we were.

These two men are my heroes.

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Inside a house in Wallingford you will find a cluttered tangle of Seattle's history.

And if you were to sneak down and peek past the hodgepodge of folders and binders and shelves crammed full of God knows what, you would find him there, tending to his world.

"I stay in my basement and work on my stuff and my stuff is thousands and thousands upon thousands of things. Most of it is what I have collected over the past 30, 40, 50 years, so I am not in the world very much anymore," said Paul Dorpat.

The chaos that surrounds Paul Dorpat is his life's work. He calls it his archive.

"It's a huge collection, really huge," Paul said.

If you ask him, he'll give you a tour.

Yard sales, estate sales, donations....his obsession is fed in all sorts of ways.

Slides by the tens of thousands, negatives, prints, recordings and videos.

"I am an obsessive recorder so I have loads of stuff. Millions probably," Paul said.

Paul just turned 80 years old, and he feels his own mortality behind him, tapping on his shoulder.

So, he races to get his archive organized, once and for all.

"That's my goal now and I don't have that much time left to do it probably and I have to get at it," he said.

Paul has a regular visitor named Jean Sherrard.

Together, they look at old pictures. When they are finished, Jean heads for the streets.

He goes into an old building and heads for the roof.

"Basically what I do is bring up my trusty tablet and I can zoom in on the different angles and see just how close I can get," Jean said.

He does his best to replicate the exact spot from where the old photo was taken.

Even if you don't know Paul and Jean, perhaps you know their work.

The two of them put together a column in Pacific Northwest Magazine in the Sunday Seattle Times.

It's called, "Now and Then."

Paul has been doing it since 1982 and Jean has been working with him for the last 20 of those years.

Paul digs up the "then," and Jean takes pictures of the "now."

"We have to be careful how we build exuberantly, and if we can think about it, and take our time to reflect on it, the disasters and the mistakes that were made in the past, it might teach use how to move forward," Jean said.

One in the basement and one on the streets...they're out there and have been for a long time. They help us gauge where it is we are by where it was we were.

"I do know that people love it and I get a lot of responses from people...I'm thanked a lot and it feels good," Paul said.

In a city that is throwing up indistinguishable, interchangeable and unremarkable structures as fast the permits can be printed, it's good to think about these things...now and then.

Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to heroes@komonews.com.

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