No More Chances To See Austin's Cathedral Of Junk

Update: The Cathedral of Junk lives on!

This has not been a good week for roadside oddities. First, Ohio's Touchdown Jesus was razed by God himself, and now the City of Austin, Texas, has forced the closure and dismantling of the long-standing Cathedral of Junk.

The immense, interactive, multilevel sculpture comprising countless found items — crutches, mailboxes, bicycles, bottles, typewriters, you name it — has stood for 21 years as one of Austin's most loved folk-art sculptures and a definitive example of the attitude that gave rise to the city's motto "Keep Austin Weird."

Unfortunately, city officials threw a wet blanket on the installation back in March when they began ordering changes and demanding permits. Since that time, the Cathedral's creator, Vince Hannemann, along with a small army of volunteers, had been working to bring the sculpture up to code and keep it open. The city had even been fairly cooperative in extending deadlines to make preserving the iconic structure possible. The Austin mayor himself contacted Vince back in May to try to help things along.

Sadly, the ordeal has finally proved to be too much hassle, leaving Vince disenchanted with what has become of his creation. After dismantling and redesigning much of the Cathedral in an effort to make officials happy, Vince feels the resulting structure is no longer worth preserving.

"To all the people who have helped try and save the Cathedral of Junk; to the people who laid on hands, brought cases of water, sandwiches, tacos, power bars and other food; to the people who wrote the mayor and turned up to the Spider House benefit; to the unknown people who left art in the front yard or shoved money under my door; to the lawyers, and to both architect and engineer; to the core volunteer team; to the people who have showered me with love and help: I thank you," Vince said in a statement announcing the Cathedral's closure.

"Your efforts have helped soothe my bruised heart. Nevertheless, I feel obligated to tell you that our efforts have been in vain. The City has made me alter the Cathedral so much that little of its original charm is left. They are still wanting a building permit for what is left. Therefore, I will be continuing to dismantle what remains. Also, visitors will be turned away. Thank you, everyone. It's a sad day for me, but much more so for Austin and, by proxy, the world."

However, it looks as though the demolition will at least result in a Cathedral spin-off. Vince says he'll break down the melange of detritus that once formed the multiroom tower and split it up to form a series of smaller structures. As long as they're under 200 square feet apiece and no more than 20 feet high, he says, the city will finally leave him alone. It will no longer be the Cathedral, but at least it'll be something.

Of course, with this new plan, the city is no longer requiring a building permit. Now they're demanding a demolition permit.

Update: The Cathedral of Junk lives on!

Comments for this page have been closed.