AUSTIN— Tucked away in a quiet suburban neighborhood, the Cathedral of Junk is hidden in Vince Hannaman’s backyard.
Standing outside 4422 Lareina Dr., on the street, I could only see the very top of the cathedral. As I walked up to the gate, which led to Hannaman’s backyard, I did not know what to except.
A $5 cash “donation” is required to view the cathedral – a small price to pay in order to view such an oddity.
The cathedral is made of about 60 tons of random junk. Bicycles, guitars, car parts, refrigerators, utensils, dolls, cement, walking canes, pieces of colored glass, car plates, stop signs, wires, helmets, you name it, and it’s building material for the cathedral. The cathedral is a two-level structure and has two sets of stairwells that lead to an open sitting area at the top. Roaming through the cathedral made me feel like a child on a quest for something great.
Hannaman moved to Austin in 1989, at the age of 26, and unknowingly began building the Cathedral of Junk.
“I started literally with some hub caps along the fence, and few little individual free-standing sculptures, kind of a little grouping, but over time, they kind of grew together and when that happened people started asking me ‘what do you call that?’ I didn’t know what to tell them,” Hannaman said.
“I called it Yard Space 11 to start off with, but that didn’t make any sense to anybody. My mom started calling it the ‘Cathedral of Junk’ and that stuck like glue, and it kind of got a life of it’s own, so that’s how that happened,” Hannaman continued.
Although the cathedral is now well supported by the “keep Austin weird” slogan, the “pile of junk” did not always resonate with fellow residents.
In 2009, the city made Hannaman get a building permit, after a neighbor complained, and in 2010 the permit was finally approved. Hannaman said the same day the permit was approved, that same neighbor moved to Montana.
“I’m sure he’s going to find something in Montana to hate on too,” Hannaman said. “Guaranteed.”
Traveling around Texas, I believe the city of Austin has the most acceptance for uniqueness.
“There’s plenty of boring places to live in the world,” Hannaman defended.
Hannaman built his first outdoor sculpture when he was just 16-years-old and has not stopped since.
So far, the Cathedral of Junk is one of my favorite spots to visit in Austin and in Texas. The Cathedral of Junk has even hosted weddings, bachelor parties and group tours for the young and the old.
Visits are done by appointment only, and can be made by calling Hannaman at 512-299-7413.