In 2010, the City of Austin asked Vince Hannenmenn, the self-dubbed “Junk King,” to dismantle the 30-foot tall construction of found art in his backyard. The Cathedral of Junk violated city ordinances and disturbed neighbors. After the cathedral was taken down, it was rebuilt due to a massive push-back on behalf of unhappy Austinities. In the minds of locals, the mere asking to take down the Cathedral of Junk equated to the chipping away of what keeps Austin weird.
Hannenmenn built the Cathedral in 1988. He has been adding to it steadily ever since and estimates that the massive installation contains 60 tons of junk. Chicken wire holds unwanted cast-offs including lawnmower wheels, car bumpers, kitchen utensils, ladders, cables, bottles, Barbie dolls, beer signs and clocks–among other things. Most of the items Hannenmenn collected himself; others were given to him by locals showing support for the project.
A few years ago, the local government tried repeatedly to close him down and persuade him to tear down the structure. But, Hannenmenn refused to back down. A few years and lawyer consultations later, he prevailed and acquired a building permit. According to Hannenmenn, the second time around, it was built stronger to withstand the Texas storms. During the reconstruction period, hundreds of volunteers lent a helping hand to reassemble the structure.
The creator maintains a day job, and is happy to give tours to drop-ins. In the past, the Cathedral of Junk has hosted weddings, music release parties, and bachelor parties. Unsurprisingly, Hannenmenn has also greeted groups of schoolkids and vans of senior citizens. As an eccentric person, Hannenmenn is an attraction as well. People are interested in knowing what inspired such a quirky interest. To that, Hannenman says, “I just did it because I liked it. And, when I stop liking it, I’ll take it down.”