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Cathedral of Junk, Austin, TX

On the surface, the Cathedral of Junk is a big crazy treehouse structure some dude built in his backyard. That’s worth a visit just for its weirdness, but it doesn’t begin to do justice to the real power of this place. Its title couldn’t fit it more completely: it’s a Cathedral of Junk. “Junk” in the sense of human detritus, and “Cathedral” in the sense of shrine. If that sounds confusing, just do yourself a favor and go… I promise it will change the way you look at trash and human beings’ impact on this rock we call Earth.

CATHEDRAL junk phone

Not much is known about the “dean” of the Cathedral, other than his name’s Vince and he’ll be there to greet you when you arrive (btw, tours are by appointment only and cost $10 per carload). He built it over a period of eons—ok, decades—going back to 1988 when he was in his 20s. Today it stands three stories tall and is overgrown with creeper vines, giving it a look somewhere between a mountain hideout and a trash heap.

CATHEDRAL overgrown

When you go inside, you want to just explore everything because it’s so novel… the place has different levels, nooks, and even a “throne” up top. Vince just hangs out while you’re inside, and generally gives you as long as you want to check it all out. He’s a laid back guy who will tell you he started building it just because it was “kinda cool,” but it obviously has a deep significance to him. He likes to say that kids love it, and that definitely speaks to part of its appeal (the “backyard clubhouse” aspect).

CATHEDRAL chair

But the longer you spend inside, the more another sensation starts to seep in. The tower is made of old car parts, lawn tools, busted electronics, and pretty much anything else you can think of that’s outlived its usefulness and been designated “junk.” But it was all new once, just like we were all new once. That might sound corny, but it made me think of how humans can become like junk, deemed useless and good-for-nothing when we’re old, even though we’re all sacred parts of Creation. This guy saved all this old trash, stuff that nobody wanted anymore, and turned it into something unexpected and beautiful. And you feel that when you sit inside. It’s a holy place.

CATHEDRAL climbing

CATHEDRAL lookingup

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Guest Monday, 19 August 2019
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