The Cathedral of Junk is certainly a place that has been on our radar for quite some time and was on our “to do” list when the weather warms up.
The Cathedral of Junk is in the backyard of someone’s house, and the owner lives on property. The backyard is full of objects that the owner has collected, amassed, and “artfully” arranged over time.
Junk King/Artist/Coolest Neighbor on the Block Vince Hanneman started building the Cathedral back in 1988 and has been adding to it when the mood strikes ever since. Constructed of bicycles, Beethoven busts, CDs, spare tires, bottles, mirrors, toilets and pretty much any cast-off object you can imagine; this magical creation is an ode to upcycling and the most awesome playhouse imaginable.
The structures are towering, and some parts of it, visitors may climb up to the top. My twins and I went this summer, and they were 3.5 years old at the time. They were able to climb up to the top in no time flat, following their peers. Yes it scared me, and the Cathedral of Junk is definitely not suitable for babies. Some of the objects are sharp, so if you (and your children) are not careful, you could get hurt.
Kids and adults alike will marvel at the creativity invested in this decades-long project, but kids, especially, will tap into the fun factor. With so many quirky places to hide, slides to slide down, mirrors to gaze into, thrones to sit upon, stairs to climb and crazy things to look at, the Cathedral is like a real-life Narnia or Hogwarts to explore, only you get to make up your own back story. You can spend hours just looking and wandering around, or play an epic game of I Spy or Hide-and-Seek.
The Cathedral of Junk is open to the public so you are likely to run into other visitors there. Aside from the objects collected, there are also caged roosters and rabbits. The Cathedral of Junk is worth every bit of the gas and time it takes to get there.
The house is in South Austin, of course. There is also an outhouse on the property for potty emergencies. It’s best to call a day or two ahead to make an appointment with Hannemann (512-299-7413) before visiting. It can get hot when it’s steamy outside, so plan to go early if you can.
Cathedral of Junk
4422 Lareina Drive
Official Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9-6 pm (Call ahead to verify, and when I called, Mr. Hannemann said that he’s now open every day.)
Admission: Free with donations accepted (Leave an object on his front porch. If it is unique enough, he may just add it to the Cathedral.)
Directions: US 81/290 to the Hwy 71 (Ben White Blvd E.) exit. Hwy 71 west to the Congress Ave. exit. Head south a couple of blocks. Turn right on St. Elmo Rd W, and then take the second left onto Lareina.