Grand Rapids' "Organ House" to remain in good hands

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - When David Luttinen of suburban Seattle saw an online video of the "organ house" on Grand Rapids' West Side, he was hooked on the idea of living with a 2,300-pipe church organ.
Luttinen, a retired bus driver, is selling his house in Mountlake Terrace, Wash., and plans to move to Grand Rapids as the new owner of the house that drew international attention for the 32-rank Kimball church organ that takes up half of the bungalow at 1117 Third St. NW.
"A motivating factor for purchase of the home in Grand Rapids is the beauty of the installation and quality of work," Luttinen said in an email explaining why he and his wife are leaving their friends and family behind for West Michigan.

"The pipes have not been marred by amateur hands, the organ is maintained to excellent standards, and the home itself is a simple work of art."
Luttinen said they plan to close on their pending offer for the house after they sell their current home.
"It is obvious that people do not understand how difficult it is to get time scheduled on a pipe organ these days," wrote Luttinen, who has played the organ since high school.
It's a happy ending for the homeowners and organ's installers, Don Haan, owner of Haan Pipe Organ, and his partner, Guy Vander Wagen.
Haan and Vander Wagen inherited the house from Bill Tufts, who had the organ in his house after buying the instrument in 2002 from Central Reformed Church in Muskegon, which could no longer afford to maintain it.
Luttinen is the ideal owner for the house and the organ, said Haan, who spent countless hours over 2½ years installing and tuning the giant instrument. He and Vander Wagen spent several hours with Luttinen going through the house and the organ when he visited in December.
"We would really like to see this guy get it," said Haan.
Luttinen, like Tufts, also intends to invite area musicians to recitals in the house, he said.
"The pipes have not been marred by amateur hands, the organ is maintained to excellent standards."

"It's going to be just like it was before except with a different owner," he said.
For Luttinen, the purchase is a mission to preserve the house and its unique legacy.
"My intention is to keep the instrument exactly as it is today, keep Guy and Don involved in its maintenance, and continue to have concerts by the AGO (American Guild of Organists.)"
Luttinen said he was alarmed by some online comments that suggested the organ should be sold or melted down for recycling.
"That made my blood boil," he said.
"I have played pipe organs for 47 years as a hobby, though not worthy enough to put on YouTube," he said. "I have saved two theater pipe organs from being taken to the dump but was unsuccessful finding a way to put them together, so they are now under the care of another aficionado."
For Realtor Mark Douglas, the pending sale marks the end of a busy time of taking calls from organ lovers all over the globe. Douglas, who listed the house for $129,000, said he was unable to disclose the selling price until closing.
"We did have a couple of serious inquiries, but there were logistical problems with bringing those deals together," said Douglas, who has had the house on the market for four months.
While some buyers wanted to turn the house into an entertainment venue or corporate meeting space, they would have encountered zoning restrictions in the quiet neighborhood, he said.
Douglas said he enjoyed showing the house to accomplished organists who wanted to put the big instrument through its paces as part of the showing.
"I got to sit there and listen to a private concert on more than one occasion," he said.

Written by Jim Harger. Jim covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at jharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.