- (Photo: NBC Charlotte)
Demolishment has begun on a large symbol of a bygone era in 1980s American televangelism history located in South Carolina. "The King's Castle," the central building for the former Heritage USA Christian theme park in Fort Mill, once owned by the Bakker family, will be leveled.
The removal of the centerpiece of the abandoned theme park began earlier this week, with residents from nearby recently developed homes commenting to NBC Charlotte about their approval of the demolition due to the poorly maintained structure being seen as "an eyesore."
Tracy Horton, a spokesperson for Morningstar Ministries, which currently owns the property for which The King's Castle is located, told local media that they also approved the demolition.
"It was going to be too expensive to do anything with it … we are now asking the public to give us ideas," said Horton to NBC Charlotte.
The King's Castle was part of Heritage USA, a major Christian theme park opened by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the late 1970s when the couple oversaw Praise the Lord Ministries.
At its peak in the mid-1980s, the South Carolina theme park was receiving millions of visitors a year. In 1986, it was the third most visited theme park in the United States, behind Disney World and Disneyland.
However, scandal would befall the Bakkers. Jim Bakker was found guilty of fraud and served time in federal prison. Heritage soon fell under financial hard times and closed down.
On websites like the one here, individuals have documented the eerie ghost town feel of the mostly abandoned park.
Morningstar Ministries, established in 1995 by Pastor Rick Joyner of Charlotte, N.C., purchased 52 acres of the property in 2004 and uses its Heritage Grand Hotel for worship for one of Morningstar's satellite campuses.
"Our services are devoted to sound biblical teaching, personal ministry, and a contemporary style of worship," reads Morningstar's website.
"We believe that the church is called to be a family and not just an organization; therefore, we provide an informal atmosphere to promote genuine relationships with the Lord and with one another."
At present, the demolition has been put on moratorium because, according to Rad Berky of NBC Charlotte, a permit for the grounds for Morningstar has not been confirmed.
"No record could be found that Morningstar had a demolition permit required by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control," reported Berky.
"Horton said the permit problem was the fault of the company hired to do the work. She said she fully expected the problem to be resolved and work on the demolition to resume by the end of the week."
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.