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Heritage USA: A rise and fall

'The King's Castle', Jim Bakker's iconic landmark of his renowned Christian theme park Heritage USA, is slated to be torn down. Nearby residents approve of the decision, seeing the crumbling tower as an eye sore. The now-defunct Heritage was at one point nearly as popular as Disney World.

Heritage USA pictures courtesy of Horse Creek Productions.

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The sign welcoming guests to Heritage USA. The Heritage Grand Hotel and Partner Center have been purchased by Morningstar Ministries, perhaps giving the defunct park a chance of revival.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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File photo of a Heritage tour bus when the park was still open. Heritage USA was run by the Praise the Lord (PTL) Ministry created by televangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The Heritage complex lit up at night during its years of operation. Heritage USA attracted over 6 million visitors and was behind only Walt Disney World and Disneyland in terms of visitors during the 80s. 

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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An abandoned 500 room hotel that was never completed. Despite its popularity, the park fell under hard financial times, particularly when Jim Bakker was found guilty of fraud and served time in federal prison.
 

 

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A sketch of how the hotel was planned to look. Since leaving prison, Jim Bakker has returned to hosting a television program and has written many books, including I Was Wrong which detailed his rise and fall, as well as his life during incarceration.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Another shot of the hotel before renovations.  It is now owned by Morningstar Ministries and has recently been opened as a hotel and a church. 

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A close-up of the damage done over the years.
Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The Heritage indoor/outdoor mall area.
Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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What the shops on 'America's Main Street' used to look like. It included clothing shops, a 'Bakkery', restaurants, arcades, and other attractions. 

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Another modern shot of the shops.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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"The King's Castle" can be seen behind a bridge that the train would use to cross the lake. The centerpiece has been slated for demolition by Morningstar Ministries.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A close up of "The King's Castle" which is soon slated for demolition. A moratorium is currently in place on the demolition because a permit for the grounds has not been confirmed.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Before closing down, "King's Castle" was turned into a giant arcade and go-cart track.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The interior of "King's Castle." Nearby residents voiced approval for demolition of the castle, calling it an 'eyesore.'

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Second floor interior. Tracy Horton of Morningstar Ministries told reporters "It was going to be too expensive to do anything with it...we are now asking the public to give us ideas."

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The Heritage USA mission statement inside "The King's Castle." Morningstar Ministries, founded in 1995, lists as its mission: "Our services are devoted to sound biblical teaching, personal ministry, and a contemporary style of worship."

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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This 'barn' building was where religious services were held in the park. In the back was the Praise the Lord (PTL) Studios.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The same building today.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Light spills in through holes in the roof.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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View from the front stage. The building would hold crowds of up to 3,000 people at a time.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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File photo of the water park. After the closure of Heritage USA, the water park continued to operate for a few years under the name "Carolina Splash Water Park."

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A shot of the water park today.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The mountain and large water slide can be seen here.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The bridge leading to the water park.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A tunnel that a tour train would go through.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Green water surrounding the mountain.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Entrance to the water park from the Heritage Grand Hotel.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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An overview of the water park.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Turnstiles at the entrance of the water park.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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An alligator statue in the children's area.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The pool under the cliff jumps, littered with outdoor chairs and lounge chairs.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A flooded stairway that used to lead to the observation area under the pool.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Speed slides in the water park.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Under the rock and into the pool.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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An overview of the island.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Entrance to water park offices.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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An old Wendy's restaurant. 

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A shot of the children's area.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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An overview of the children's area.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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A sign left over from when the park was named "Carolina Splash Water Park."

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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File photo of the train and a train station named "Buffalo Depot."

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Buffalo Depot today.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Buffalo Depot with the King's Castle looming in the background.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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File photo of "The Heritage Inn."

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The Inn today.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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File photo of an outdoor stage area by the water.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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The same spot today.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

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Another photo of the shops with the hotel looming in the background.

Tommy Faircloth/Horse Creek Productions

Heritage USA: A rise and fall

'The King's Castle', Jim Bakker's iconic landmark of his renowned Christian theme park Heritage USA, is slated to be torn down. Nearby residents approve of the decision, seeing the crumbling tower as an eye sore. The now-defunct Heritage was at one point nearly as popular as Disney World.

Heritage USA pictures courtesy of Horse Creek Productions.

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