Where: Fort Mill, SC
When: 2004 and 2005
Status: Currently being rebuilt/reused.
Heritage is a former Christian resort owned by Jim and Tammy Bakker near Fort Mill South Carolina. The resort was one of the most visitied attractions in the U.S while it was open. Jim was eventually found guilty of fraud and the park eventually closed.
Its worth mentioning up front that there are countless versions of the Heritage story and countless opinions on who is at fault for the eventual failure of the resort. Its also worth mentioning that much of the park is now being rebuilt and reopened. More info can be found at the end of this page. Currently the park is under construction. I was able to capture some of the park before that construction started and others as it was going on.
The unfinished Heritage Tower. This was a major piece of Jim's case. It was argued that he didn't have enough rooms for the partnerships that he had sold. This was part of his answer to that allegation.
The exact timeline of the park is very difficult to determine. The park's dying days were spotted with attempts to bring it back to life.
The Sand Castle housed an arcade and what wsa once the largest go-kart track in the south. It now stands empty and in disrepair. It was once slated to be a Wendy's eatery.
The grounds of Heritage housed everything from a campground to a water park. There was even a large fake sand castle that housed a gokart facility, arcade, and small store.
When Bakker went to jail for fraud, the park was taken over first by Jerry Falwell, the Raddison resorts, and eventually by a mylasian firm that held the abandoned park until recently when a developer and another ministry decided to purchase and develop the land. Most of these pictures were taken right around the time the new ministry aquired the land.
I made several trips to the grounds between 2004 and mid 2005. My first trip was on a whim while in town for a Nascar race. We made a brief trip around the grounds and climbed around the waterpark a bit. The second trip was in early 2005 and involved getting some pictures of some of the more remote buildings. My final trip was for the sole purpose of getting some pictures of the Tower which I was able to do.
The water park was probably one of the more interesting features. I actually ran out of battery during my best trip in to the water park, so the pictures are limited, but the park was really cool. It was a great example of the quality of Heritage USA. The park was all integrated in to a large fake mountain. The train that took people around the park passed through the mountain and under a waterfall coming off the mountain. There was a snack bar inside a cave of the mountain. Everything was themed and connected with other attractions.
Looking toward the water park. The pools of the park were all interconnected. There was a wave pool, lazy river, cliff dive pool, steep slides, normal slides, rafts, etc. This has since been bulldozed.
One of the biggest goals for me personally was to get in to the tower. I did not succeed on my first two trips due to varying circumstances. I was determined to see the inside of that building before they imploded it (they later decided not to implode it and it is standing empty as of the writing). I headed down to Heritage and stayed locally so I could check the tower out at any time I felt it was possible.
Looking at the castle from the tower.
Looking at the grand hotel from the tower.
The first night I was there I made a trip through the former church barn. I found the old location of a store that had a bunch of heritage related souvineer items wasting away. From that location I could see the tower in the distance. I couldn't resist. At about 11pm I headed up that way and scoped the area out. There was only one person around. I figured there was no better time than now so I worked my way behind the first fence surrounding the tower.
I should explain that there were two fences around the tower. Normally I don't force my way in to anything, but I did make an exception this one time. I hopped a section of the second fence that was had been pushed down a little by someone else and I was at the base of the tower looking up. I quickly realized that I had no way to actually get in the tower. I'd have to do a little more forcing. I found a loose board and pushed a little... BOOM!... a large pallot inside the tower fell over against the cement floor and echod like crazy through the still quite night. I went in.
Upon entering I quickly realized that my cheap flashlight was no match for the darkness inside the tower. I couldn't see anything other than some orange light seeping around the boarded windows.
I really didn't get much of a look at the lobby. I headed up stairs to see what I could find in case someone heard the noise and came looking. No one did.
Aside from being a little freaked out by being in there alone, the tower was amazing. The lower floors were nearly finished, but as I went upward they became less and less finished until I got to a point where there was nothing more than bathtubs and unfinished walls. The roof was probably one of the best parts. There was a giant peace on earth light up there that I nearly caught my neck on. There were bats everywhere up there trying to figure out who was in there territory. Actually there were plenty of bats in the lower floors as well.
Sitting up on the roof alone with the summer air blowing around was really cool. I could see the city way off in the distance and I could see pretty much all of heritage. I can't really explain the feeling, but my senses had been really heightend by being in the building alone on the way up, so once I was at the top it was just total relaxation. I chilled out up there for quite a while just taking everything in and thinking about how the hell I ended up on top of an old building in the middle of nowhere alone at midnight.
Looking from the roof toward the city I believe.. or maybe just toward the hotels by the highway. I'm not sure. That is a factory across the road that you see in the forground.
Speaking of bats... they're insane. At one point I was walking down steps with my flashlight pointed straight at my feet to make sure I didn't step on anything too loud. I had my fingers over the light so just a little bit of light would get through. One of the bats kept passing under the light, which means it was about 6 inches from my legs and I couldn't get rid of him. In the lobby he continued to bother me and kept chirping. I finally tried to get away by running to the other side of the lobby and the little bastard still found me.
Getting out was no easy task. The board I had pushed to get in was difficult to get through now that I was going the other way. I did eventually get out just in time to hear a car coming. Keep in mind that this is an area you can't get in to from the street. I could see headlights coming and I was still inside of two layers of fence. I layed in the grass. I could see a spotlight going across the top of the building next to me. I waited and eventually heard the vehicle pull to the other side of the tower behind me. There was a little more spotlight action. I heard them pull away and figured I'd better move on. I hopped the first fence and managed to catch my armpit on the fence post or something. Nothing says comfort like a mixture of blood and armpit sweat. I made my way back to where I was staying and slept it off. Sorry Security person. No harm no fowl?
I spent the next day walking around and getting pictures of the remains of the park as best I could. Shortly after my trip changes began to take place on the grounds, so I certainly am glad I made it when I did. I hope to head back sometime in the near future to see the progress. I really can't say enough about how friendly the people I meant during the day were to me. I told a few what I was doing and they thought it was great. They really were cool about it.
The old tram drop off spot and camping store.
Over all of the grounds I was able to see quite a bit. The grounds were really saturated with places to sleep and entertain. The barn and studio were really cool as well. It was amazing the amount of damage that the barn had suffered. I've read that some of that damage was due to the big hurricane in the 1990s. The amount of stuff that really was left untouched at heritage is unmatched. I have way more heritage content on my other side at http://sbno.illiciohio.com. There really isn't enough room to cover it all here.
As the grounds currently stand, they are building homes, shopping, and using the existing buildings for a ministry. I wish them the best of luck with their venture and would love to come take a look at the finished product.
Around the Grounds
A former office I believe? This may have been medical related. This is now being used as offices for an anti-abortion group I believe. The old hotel. This is now gone. It was burnt down by the fire department for practice. Big slides (this picture is actually stretched wrong to fit I believe). There is a famous picture of Fallwell going down this slide in a suit after he took control of the park. Swimming pool filled with green water. This is one of two pools on the grounds. Camping store. One of many cabins. Hallway in the unfinished hotel. Lobby of the barn church. This is now being redone. Inside the church barn on my second visit. The same basic vew on my last visit when construction had started.
Some links to the groups currently using the grounds...
Its also probably worth googling Jim Bakker's story if you don't know the background of this place.
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More pictures can be found in the gallery here.