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"It's just one of those things," Glen Douglas told me when I pressed him to explain why he'd built one of the most amazing places in Houston: a white concrete dome, hidden on the wooded banks of Sims Bayou, that is first and foremost a pipe organ, and only secondarily Douglas' house.He shrugged: "It started small."Small, for him, was a little electronic organ, one of those pale imitations of the real thing, the sort of instrument that a young military doctor stationed in San Antonio would play around with. Its case left something to be desired, so Douglas thought maybe he could decorate it with a few pipes salvaged from a real pipe organ.A military friend, John Ballard, suggested that he could do better. Ballard had worked with a pipe-organ builder, and he showed Douglas how to build the complicated pneumatic machinery that would make the pipes function. In '76, Douglas played the result for the first time.And he was hooked. He began adding a few new pipes here, a few salvaged pipes there. He learned to build chestwork, the wooden stuff that holds the pipes in place, with the valve underneath that lets air into the pipe; he learned to manage blowers and ductwork and wiring for the electropneumatic system. To make room for more pipes, he tore out the wall between his bedroom and his living room.He moved to Houston, to set up a practice in occupational medicine, and as the organ grew, it took up ever more of a succession of houses. Finally, about five years ago, he built a new one on a wooded lot not far from the Glenbrook Park Golf Course: a white, stucco-covered structure called a monolithic dome, the shape chosen for its acoustics. In essence, he hired a firm in Italy, Texas, to build a canvas balloon, then pour 900,000 pounds of concrete over it. The Aeolian Manor, Douglas calls the place.It's more pipe organ than house. The little kitchen and two small bedrooms are wedged in at the sides, next to the curving walls. The main space - the living room/auditorium, a soaring, two-story central domed area - is utterly dominated by what is now the fourth-largest pipe organ in Houston: an organ with roughly 7,000 pipes, in 110 ranks. It's smaller than the organs at Second Baptist, St. John the Divine and First Methodist, but significantly bigger than the one at downtown's Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart."What's a hobby?" Douglas asked philosophically, standing at one of his three consoles' keyboards. "Some people have boats. Some people have model trains. I always liked organ music."RescuedThe Aeolian Manor Residence Organ, as Douglas calls his creation, is a cheerful hybrid, made up mostly from salvaged pipes. Among organ people, it's a cliché to say that more organs are lost to changing taste than to overuse. The pipes don't wear out. But churches decide to go with a more modern, rock-band sound. Old theaters, whose organs once accompanied silent movies, fall to the wrecking ball. Robber barons' mansions are torn down to make way for skyscrapers.His tall wooden pipes - the tallest, in the center of the central array, rises 16 feet - came from the Manhattan mansion of steel magnate Charles M. Schwab. At the back of the room, over the front door, an array of 49 brass trumpet pipes juts out horizontally, as if to proclaim the entrance of a bride or a bishop; they're some of the rare pipes that Douglas bought new in 1973. One of his three consoles, one he hasn't hooked up yet, is from Philadelphia's long-gone Orpheum Theatre, a vaudeville house that came to show silent movies. There are pipes from First Methodist Church in Fredericksburg, from the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception in New Orleans, from estates in Pittsburgh and Mount Kisco, N.Y. One set of metal pipes, Douglas noted off-handedly, is from the Arkansas church that he grew up in.He didn't make much of that. He's a doctor, with a doctor's professional reserve, and he'd much rather talk about the organ's technical aspects - about, say, the way that trumpet pipes use a metal reed, or the way that pulling out a stop activates a rank of pipes - than about what the organ means to him. Later, he'll tell a Chronicle photographer that he doesn't even want to be photographed along with his organ. He'd rather that the instrument speak for itself.Still, to me there's something moving about giving new homes to all those abandoned pipes, about reclaiming all that glory lost to changing style, about not letting something beautiful end up in a landfill. As we talk, one of Douglas's three greyhounds, an elegant brindle, pads through the room. All three, he says, are rescue dogs.Feel the sound"Do you want to hear it?" he asked at last, after a couple of hours of trying to explain to me everything about pipe organs. It's important to him that the world understand them. That's why last year he set up the nonprofit Aeolian Manor Foundation (aeolianmanorfoundation.org) "to promote and encourage pipe-organ performance." For its inaugural house concert in November, he lined up rows of chairs in his living room, and Pierre Pincemaille, the organist at the Basilica of St. Denis, flew in from Paris to play Bach. Since then, he's hosted concerts every couple of months. For the next one, Brett Valliant of Wichita, Kan., will play theater-organ music, possibly accompanied by a silent movie.I nodded. I was hungry to hear it.He poured us glasses of white wine. Then, at the organ's console, he cued up one of the records of a past performance on the organ. With a digital device something like a player piano, Douglas can record the player's precise movements on the keyboard, then replay them again later on the organ. He didn't want to say who the organist was - just "someone who can really play, unlike me."We walked toward the front door and stood facing the organ, on the tiled rectangle that marks the room's sweet spot, the place where the pipes' sound best converges.Bach's Fugue in E-flat major swelled around us. It began with a melody like the hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past." I could feel the sound in my sternum - large and simple and holy.The melody then began to transform itself, shifting from one rank of pipes to another, moving around the room. As it grew bigger and more complicated, the vibrations spread outward from my ribcage, into my limbs, into all the rest of my body. And suddenly, all the clichés - about being swept away by music, infused by the spirit, taken over by something larger - seemed true.I understood then what had gotten into Douglas, why he'd collected all those pipes, why he'd built his dome. I understood then how the pipe organ had swept him firstname.lastname@example.org