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The Cathedral of Junk has to go.
The enormous stack of old hubcaps, bicycles, blenders, crutches, urinals, computer guts, lawn mower wheels, kitchen utensils, shopping carts, typewriters, sewing machines and other stuff reaching 33 feet toward the sky in a South Austin backyard is a building, the city’s code compliance officers say. Worse still, it’s a building without a building permit.
Fans and friends of Vince Hannemann, the artist who began creating the Cathedral of Junk behind his Bubbaland home on Lareina Drive in 1988, say it’s art. Either way, it’s beloved and famous. The Cathedral, featured on RoadsideAmerica.com and a book called “Weird Texas,” is a well-known tourist destination for folks who vacation in, say, VW buses and are bored with normal stuff like Six Flags.
“This whole structure is wired together with wires, and I don’t think an engineer would stamp it as structurally sound,” said Ronald Potts, an assistant division manager for the city’s code compliance department. He points out that people climb up into the tower. “There’s hallways. There’s ladders. There are people going in and out of there, so it is a structure or building, by code.”
On Wednesday, the city posted the Cathedral as a dangerous structure, Potts said.
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.