The History of the Cathedral of Junk in 1 Minute

An old bicycle tire, a lampshade and a television are just some of the items you may find when visiting the Cathedral of Junk, where trash is transformed into treasure.

The Cathedral of Junk in Austin appears to be a pile of random objects. Once inside, though, visitors are awed by its mesmerizing interior.

The attraction is an ever-changing work in progress © Elisa Ferrari

Tucked away in a backyard in a regular neighborhood, the attraction is an ever-changing work in progress, much like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. Exactly what you will see or not see here will vary from day to day.

Construction began in 1989 when Vince Hannemann, the Cathedral of Junk’s creator and curator, started building it in his backyard. Collecting anything and everything, from pipes and scraps of metal to illuminating signs, Hannemann constructed a clubhouse that included towers, a garden of TVs, winding stairs, whole open rooms and even pyramids.

Vince Hannemann in 1979 © Elisa Ferrari

Think of it as found art, or a tower of bric-a-brac. The hollow interior is a winding labyrinth through a museum of stuff. You’ll see lawnmower wheels, car bumpers, kitchen utensils, ladders, cables, bottles, circuit boards, bicycle parts and other items that are, frankly, unidentifiable. Electricity flows through the cathedral, keeping all the clocks and beer signs lit up for visitors.

Eventually, word about his project spread and people began to offer Hannemann materials to add to his collection. The massive cathedral is therefore the result of communal efforts.

Hannemann began to build the Cathedral of Junk in 1989 © Elisa Ferrari

The attraction is free to the public (though there is a suggested donation) but it is not always open, so it’s best to call before heading over. The cathedral is also available for rent.

The massive structure is the result of communal efforts © Elisa Ferrari