Last Updated: 02/04/2020 | February 4th, 2020
Paris has Notre Dame. London has Westminster Abbey. Moscow has St. Basil’s.
And Austin? We have the Cathedral of Junk!
Started in 1988 by Vince Hannemann, the Cathedral of Junk is an ever-evolving passion project involving over 60 tons of junk. Old bikes, appliances, hubcaps, TVs — you name it. They’re all cobbled together to form a massive “cathedral” that spans Vince’s entire back yard.
While he originally had to scavenge for junk to start his project, it wasn’t long before people were donating their old possessions to help him expand his “cathedral” — making it bigger and adding more rooms in the process.
A number of years ago the city of Austin, Texas, tried to shut it down, saying it was too much junk and a safety concern. (In truth, the neighbors thought it was an eyesore and complained to the city) So Vince and an army of volunteers pared down the structure and brought it up to code so the site could stay open.
Eventually, Vince decided enough was enough and started to take parts of the cathedral down. But not long after he changed his mind and the cathedral is now bigger than ever.
In a weird city like Austin, a massive cathedral made of junk located in someone’s suburban backyard seems oddly fitting. I spent most of my visit talking to Vince and asking questions (it doesn’t take long to explore the Cathedral). But I also explored and took in this quirky architectural feat.
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. I discovered out that this place is really popular with locals because your kids will stay occupied for an hour or two. If you’re in Austin with your family, come here. Your kids will love it.
And if you are traveling without kids, come here anyway. You’ll still love it. I did.
Visiting the Cathedral of Junk
You can visit the Cathedral of Junk at 4422 Lareina Drive in Austin, Texas. It’s a 15-minute drive from downtown by car. If you want to take the bus, the journey is 30 minutes and you can take the #10.
Admission is free though a $5 donation for adults is encouraged. There are no set hours and he isn’t open every day so it’s best to call ahead before you go. (With a set schedule, the City of Austin would consider him an “official business” and then he would have to follow all sorts of rules)
Is the Cathedral of Junk the greatest attraction in Austin? Probably not, but it’s so weird, so quirky, that you really should make an effort to see it during your visit. It makes for a unique afternoon and is a perfect example of why the slogan for Austin is “Keep Austin Weird.”
Whether you’re traveling solo or with a family, make sure you add this to your itinerary. I promise it will be worth it!
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