Unusual Place of the Month: The Cathedral of Junk

By Nomadic Matt | Published April 15th, 2013

The Cathedral of Junk is just what it sounds like: a bunch of junk built into the shape of a cathedral. It was started in 1988 by Vince Hannemann and has grown over the years through donations from people around both the city and the world. Nowadays, it contains over 60 tons of junk. A number of years ago the city of Austin tried to shut it down, saying it was too much junk and a safety concern. (The neighbors thought it was an eyesore.) So Vince and an army of volunteers pared down the structure and brought it up to code so this site could stay open.

Last month when in Austin, Texas, I decided to visit because, well, Austin is weird, and what better to do in a weird city than see something weird?

It doesn’t take long to explore the Cathedral and I found I spent most of my time talking to Vince, asking questions I’m sure he is sick of hearing, and just watching people play with the junk. This site definitely lends itself to some fun for those with an active imagination.

Here’s some pictures of the cathedral:

the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas main entrance
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas
the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, texas

During my visit I found out that a lot of people come here with their kids; many were running all over the place and having a merry time playing make-believe. If you’re in Austin with your family, come here. Your kids will love it. After speaking with some people, I found out that this place is really popular with locals because your kids will stay occupied for an hour or two. And if you are traveling without kids, come here anyway. You’ll still love it. I did.

You can visit the Cathedral of Junk at 4422 Lareina Drive, Austin, TX. Admission is free (donations are accepted), there are no set hours, and he isn’t open every day. With a set schedule, Austin would consider him an “official business” and then he would have to follow all sorts of rules, so you just have to hope for the best when you go.

comments 30 Comments

Haha, this looks like a glorified episode of Hoarders!

But no, what an interesting idea! One man’s junk is another man’s cathedral, I guess!

This does remind me a little bit of the junk-art movement that’s happening in Detroit, though. Interesting!

Sam

I had no idea Austin was so weird! This definitely looks worth visiting. I love that he doesn’t have a set timetable in order to remain ‘off the grid’!

What god do they worship in this place? :)

NomadicMatt

Our lord and savior Recyleus :)

Wauw, I just read an article at National Geographic about how Swedes burn trash to generate energy and now you post the “Junk Cathedral” in Austin! Funny world we live in, huh!

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/04/sweden-needs-more-trash/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_tw20130107ngnw-swedentrash&utm_campaign=Content

“Using high-power incinerators to burn garbage on a national scale, Sweden have been successfully turning landfill contents into electricity for some time. But this ‘incineration-to-power technology’ has hit a bump in the road: the Swedes are so good at recycling that they have run out of junk to burn. So, in yet another environmental win, they have begun importing rubbish from neighbouring Norway in order to continue providing heat and energy to over 1 million homes via trash incineration. Everyone’s a winner!” :)

That’s a seriously cool concept! I’m assuming that there are no actual religious ceremonies held here, which makes me think that he chose the name “Cathedral of Junk” purely because it sounds more grand than say, “House of Junk” – that kind of makes me like it even more.

Reminds me of the ruin bars in Budapest and Prague. There’s actually a push in a lot of Eastern European countries to recycle trash and discards – or so says a book I teach English with – and make them into art.

I’m from the South and have never been to Austin. Will definitely visit this place if I ever get around to Austin. A great reason to do so.

Coming-up with this junk cathedral was truly a unique idea. But when I look at all that stuff three questions come to mind: How safe is this thing? are those really old stuff that can’t b recycled and serve for better use? And how can this place be up to city code when it look like it can fall apart at any minute? I hope there a sign that reads ” enter at your own risk”.

LoL! too awesome. I keep on looking for a theme or some kind of pattern on the junk but nope! It’s all just thrown together.

There used to be a junkyard cafè in Balmain in Sydney. The chairs and tables were all from recycled goods and you were sitting amongst piles of crap that had been hoarded or dumped. You were never short of interesting things to catch your eye! And they made good coffee :)

Wow, that sounds like fun! Would have loved to have a coffee there!

I had read about this place before. How cool to see it back in your post now. I Love it and would love to see it with my own eyes, but I’m not likely to visit Austin. So I’m thankful for your post and pictures!

Wow what a place, its amazing something like this exists. Great pictures of the cathedral of junk.

Vee

Looks cool… I would love to have a house like that!

Looks like a really fun site to visit. I’ve read about this in the past and would definitely like to see it in person when I visit Austin.

Austin, a place I can’t wait to get to. I will have to try my luck to visit the Cathedral of Junk.

Margie

I have one question that comes to my mind when I read your three questions. Do you work for the government?

Margie

Germo, that is.

Melanie

Great look at one of the many hidden gems in the city! (I am biased because I live here, but Austin is worth the visit!) Hopefully I’ll find some equally “weird” sights in New Zealand when I visit in July :)

Wow this is weird. I always heard such cool things about Austin, I didn’t realize it had such as ‘weird’ side to it. Pretty funny.

NomadicMatt

As they say, keep Austin weird!

This reminds me of how my spare room looked back home! It looks like a fun place to visit next time we are in Austin :)

Ha ha ha. Very much in style for my liking for weird pictures, I would spend a while photographing this shrine lol Who would think that Austin hides such pearls of architecture :)

That looks incredible. It’s hard to believe someone would dedicate a large proportion of their life to arranging other peoples ‘waste’ into a structure that looks presentable.

Kea Watson

I MUST go see this

Luke Hartung

Yet another reason why Austin is my favourite city in the USA

I love this! It looks like it could be part of the Water World set, except for no water :)

Oh man I never would have expected to find this haha. It’s like the ultimate nightmare of someone with OCD. What an unusual way to organize (or..disorganize) junk. Very interesting though, thanks for sharing!

I love places like this! Shame it’s so far away! :(

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