A North Seattle dentist with a taste for local history and storytelling extracts an important clue from an 1880s photo of a hardware store.

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STANDING SIDE-BY-SIDE in the “Now” photo are Laurie and Wayne Pazina, who have been married and working together for nearly 40 years. Laurie and Wayne met on a blind date arranged by a friend with good judgment. Wayne is a graduate of the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry, 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 profession is fraught with stress. But Dr. Pazina has developed a unique 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.

One frequent subject in the dentist’s repertoire is Northwest history: the early part that runs from 1853, the year that Washington Territory was founded, to the declaration of Washington’s statehood in 1889. An avid reader of history, Pazina also pulls many of his narratives from the territorial ephemera he collects: newspapers, correspondences, photographs and art.

With the art, for instance, he has a collection of paintings by Mark Richard Myers, a Californian whose skilled works of Puget Sound pioneer schooners and maritime events are collected worldwide. Myers 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 Myers’ paintings. 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 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 at 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,” 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.