The Cathedral of Junk

The Cathedral of Junk

The Cathedral of Junk is located in the backyard of a small house on a suburban street on the south side of Austin. Although it is not as large as some of the other structures we’ve visited, it is still very impressive. Vince Hannemann, the man who built it, is unassuming and down-to-earth. He didn’t build the Cathedral to get attention, but rather because he thought it would be fun.

History and information

Hannemann began building the Cathedral in 1988 and has added to it steadily ever since. It is estimated that the structure now contains over 60 tons of junk. Most of the junk came from things people had thrown away, but Hannemann is still very selective about what he includes in his creation.

The Cathedral seems small from the outside, but once you enter, you are immediately impressed by its size. There are stairways and multiple levels, as well as an observation platform and a “Throne Room.” The effect is very impressive indeed.

Back in 2000, Vince had to make a tough decision. “I wanted to be in control,” he said. “I was sick of feeling like I had no life.” But he couldn’t just leave. So, he did the next best thing.

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“I tried to tear it down,” Vince continued. He started by demolishing the three-story tower in the backyards. But then he just used the junk from the tower to build more rooms. “I was just stressed out,” Vince laughs.

The yuppies in the townhome complex behind Vince’s yard wouldn’t mind if Vince tore down his Cathedral. They’ve complained to the city, and the city has sent engineers — several over the years — who shake and study Vince’s creation, trying to find its weak spots, but it has none. The only part of the Cathedral that Vince has had to demolish was his “Pyramid of TVs” — 200 in all.

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Vince, who has a day job, is always happy to show his wonderful creation to visitors. The Cathedral has been the host of many events, such as weddings, CD debut parties, and bachelor parties. It is also a popular destination for school tour groups and senior citizens.

“Some people recognize items that they used to have and it brings back fond memories,” Vince tells us. “A few people get overwhelmed by the sheer size of it and have to leave. Sometimes people act weird. Some people cry tears of joy. Women mostly.”

Unlike most medieval cathedrals, which construction often spanned several generations, the Cathedral of Junk will be finished well within Vince Hannemann’s lifetime if he has anything to say about it. “Oh, no. I’m not doing this for the rest of my life. I want to retire to the back porch and just putter around.”

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