Unusual Place of the Month: The Cathedral of Junk

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
the Cathedral of Junk's tower of junk in Texas
the Cathedral of Junk
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 with many visitors
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.

30 Comments
  1. 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!

  2. 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’!

  3. 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!” :)

  4. 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.

  5. 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”.

  6. 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 :)

  7. 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!

  8. 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 :)

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

Leave a Comment