Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s semi-abandoned “Heritage USA”, a Christian-themed resort/water-park which was closed when their PTL empire crumbled in the late 80’s is right down the road from where I live.
As a result of its proximity to me and the grand abandoned spectacle that it is, I have an off and on fascination with the place and joined a Yahoo! group dedicated to keeping up with the goings-ons with the property.
The other members of the group are mostly people who were involved with PTL back in the 80’s in some way or other, or are interested in the future of the property which keeps changing hands from one Christian group to another, but, as of yet, nobody has been able to return the acreage to its former glory.
Anyway, to make a long story short the following exchange took place recently on the message board. I found the posts fascinating not only in content, but also in the way the entire conversation spun out of control. I thought I would share.
(Note: I have truncated all the names involved as it is a private Yahoo group and most of the members use their real names and assume a modicum of privacy as the group is by invite only. Also, all misspelling and grammatical errors are those of the members.)
I really learned how the media can very much distort the truth after having seen where The Bakkers lived in Tega Cay. To hear the media speak, their house was a palatial estate. In fact, it was anything BUT. Yes, it was a nice house, but it was definitely no mansion. Those houses in Tega Cay were built in the 1970’s and from pictures I’ve seen over the years, The Bakker’s home was very much period 1970’s and a bit dated. Probably the most attractive feature of the home was its location on the lake and the private cul-de-sac lot.
When you see things for your own two eyes, you really do realize how the media can sensationalize facts.
Actually the Media wasn’t completely off their rocker about how they lived. Yes in deed the Bakker’s had an extremly updated 1970’s home, I know I worked at the home for more than 3 years. Their home had the house boat docked to it which many people do not know! Jim was installing a waterslide on the side of the home, but had to stop when the city wouldn’t aprove the waterslide, so it became a dirty ditch and hillside, later it was filled.The dog house was indeed air conditioned which wasnt a big deal, since it was in the hot South Carloina sun,
many rich people had thier dog house air conditioned or vented to protect the dogs.
Also at the home they had an Atrium within the interior of the house in which they had three doves that flew around openly, and they had two ponds with fish and a little stream and a small bridge going over it, this also where they kept thier two Ferretts who were cute but a pain to clean up after!
Tammy had fake food at the dining tables, I say tables because the dinning room which was added by the Bakker’s and Tammy, had life size Manaquins and fake food in front of all the manaquins. The appliances were top of the line (Wolf or Vulcan) appliances and the kitchen was gutted and completly rebuilt form the ground up, and they had hundreds of motion sensors throughout the house. It had gold platted fauctes and several sinks that were as well, some sinks were hand painted porcelin imported from Portugla and Italy, those sinks were extremly expensive, this was a very high class place and the woodwork was top of the line not your typical pine or oak. The carpeting and the floors were all top of the line, and it had heated floors installed, which was also a new technology at the time and extremly expensive.
The windows were all replaced with Armstrong Windows and they were triple paned and the ones placed toward the Lake had bullit Proof Glass installed, which that was at that time very new and extremly expensive. Jim had motion detectors outside as well as a speaker system installed through out the house, these were two way speaker type for talking to the kids and the security officers too. The
pool was top of the line and had a bridge over it that led to the underground pool house which also had a dance (Disco) studio
installed with rope lights for the kids and everyone to play with as they
danced. The Bar and the food area was located within the same area which also served the pool house.
This was by far and no means a regular 1970’s house, it was as close to a Hollywood home as you could get not being in Beverly Hills, this was Tammy’s dream home and Jim wanted to make sure it was perfect for her.
Allot of people ask about all the other people who were regulars on PTL, well most of them lived in and around the Bakkers house in Tega Cay, those homes were also owned by PTL and Partner money was used to purchase them. They were also top of the line interiors too, but not as extensive as Jim & Tammy’s home.
Hope that clears things up a bit, pictures just wouldnt do the house justice, since many of them were taken before the extensive remodeling too place.
Being a good friend/ Heritage USA Academy classmate of Tammy Sue I spent the night at the Bakker’s house in Tega Cay several times. Also attended a couple of the teen parties thrown there. I do remember the atrium but never saw any doves or ferrets in it. Had dinner with the entire family and never saw any mannequins w/ fake food at the table. I wouldn’t have known gold plated from brass so I can’t vouch for that either.
What I do remember from my time at their house was once I wandered in Tammy Faye’s room – might have been her sitting area – and found a counter full of make-up. I also remember one visit that Tammy Faye was sick and she still had make-up on – don’t know if it was because her daughter had a house guest but I never saw her without make-up on.
I honestly don’t remember it looking as lavish as described. Just seemed like a big, nice house to me.
I remember a story that the CBS News program 48 Hours did back when the ministry was trying to sell the house after Jim & Tammy moved out. It was for sale by Tega Cay Realty and PTL Bankruptcy Trustee Dr. David Clark took CBS newsman Bob Faw on a tour of the house. Although the TV piece was very short and did not
tour the entire house, to me it just looked like a regular house with a view of Lake Wylie. Wall-to-wall plush green carpeting, a family room with a cathedral ceiling and glass atrium overlooking the lake and exposed brick and a spiral staircase.
It showed the little bridge over the swimming pool, which didn’t look like
anything special to me. I’ve seen pictures of the dog house too. It looked like something that was stick built with a portable air conditioner stuck in the side of it. I remember the “waterslide” too – if you could call it that. There really wasn’t that much to it. Jim describes it in his book, “I Was Wrong.” The exterior was Polynesian inspired and not overly attractive with its stone and wood facades and interesting roof design.
Something tells me that if there was really anything that extravagant to show, CBS would have showed it on this 48 Hours broadcast. In fact, the ministry had a VERY difficult time selling the house. Certainly the price limited the number of potential buyers, but really there were other much nicer homes in Tega Cay at that time of comparable price.
I suppose we can all perceive ‘luxury’ in different ways, but I agree with Debby – just a nice, older, large house. Far from mansion status in my opinion.
Ms. Ball – Tammy Faye’s Sister
I wrote Roland and asked him if he remembered me, and just what he did for the Bakkers. He said he was a security guard for them at the house. I don’t remember him either. Maybe he was one of the guards on the outside of the house. I don’t remember all the things he is saying was there either Debby.
I know Tammy loved those fake pie’s and had them in the kitchen. But manaquins? If they were there i did not see them. Knowing Tammy though, if she indeed had them they may have been using the bathrooms when I was there (joking).
I don’t think the gurads used the personal bathrooms in the house but again I may be mistaken. Anyway, this bothered me a little and I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t remember it that way.
Thanks for listening.
It sure seems this topic has gotten a great many comments, but that is great to see people respond to something they personally know about. I have to recall back some many years as to what I remember exactly when it came to the Bakker’s Tega Cay home, but I certainly would not call it “lavish” by any means. The “gold plated” fixtures, if that is what they were, was not impressive to me at all. It was a large home, but there were much prettier homes in that community. My mom’s sister was a realtor in Ft. Mill and that allowed me to have access with her to see the Bakker home personally. It was a bit dated in areas, but still a very beautiful and comfotable home. I saw the doghouse with the a/c unit and was outraged at the medias attempt to describe it as they did. Even though I have not personally visited the homes of other evangelist/pastors like Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, or Benny HInn…I have seen photos of their homes. The Bakker home was nothing compared with the three examples above. It is the “pot calling the kettle black” as the old saying goes. I do not believe the Bakker’s lived any better than the average televangelist of that era. Jerry Falwell was “throwing stones”, so to speak, when he downgraded the Bakker’s for living a “lavish” lifestyle. His statements really insulted my intellegence after I personally saw what he was accusing them of doing.
Rick & Chris – Current residents at the Heritage property
Just want to add that my husband Rick was in Jim and Tammy’s home in Tega Cay on several occasions in 1987 after the fall of PTL. He helped Jim Bakker’s sister Donna remove many items from the “ministry house” that Jim and Tammy were being forced by Jerry Falwell to vacate.
He also was there when the home burned to the ground because he was the lead investigator on the case, one of the first ones of the scene! So we have some factual knowledge about the home. First, it wasn’t a palatial mansion, nor did it have gold faucets, actually they were brass plated. The story of the air-conditioned doghouse is half truth, actually it had a little heater on it!
Quoting from Tammy’s book, “TAMMY,Telling It My Way” (pages 231-32): “We couldn’t go anywhere in the country, what with Jerry Falwell accusing us hour after hour on CNN of being thieves and ruining Christian television for everyone. Reporters were still hot on our trail, bombarding us with questionswhenever they could. “Tammy! Tammy! Is it true that you had an air-conditioneddoghouse?”
“For the millionth time, we don’t have an air-conditioned doghouse!” During thewinter, our dogs were kept in the garage so they could stay warm. But the odorwas nauseating, and our constant spraying with water was ruining the woodenfloor and walls.
So Jim simply built a doghouse. He found an old heating/air-conditioning unit noone was using and placed it inside the doghouse as a source of heat. Thatdoghouse was never air-conditioned, only heated.
“Tammy, we hear you’ve got gold faucets. How can you possible justify havinggold faucets?”
“I don’t have to, because we don’t.”
“Are you saying you don’t have gold faucets in your bathroom?”
“They’re made of chrome, just like your faucets. All we had were gold-colored swans instead of silver-colored knobs. They cost only pennies per unit, and I liked the gold color better than the silver color. That’s all there is to it!”
And that is all there really was to it!
Rick and I pray that one day someone would come forward and tell the truth. Many people know that the “outrageous” accusations weren’t true, but for some strangereason they keep their silence to this day.
Jim Bakker did sin, and repented many, many times, but anything after that is a tangled web of deceit and exaggerations that needs to be exposed.
Something else to consider. Jim did have a board of directors. The members of the board changed from time to time. Some might say that when Jim wanted something he got it, where was the board?
I cherish the memories my family has of our times at Heritage.
Jim Bakker wanted a place for Christians to come. A place to vacation, to learn about the Lord and to feel safe. He provided it! His heart was in the right place. Yes, he made mistakes. He has repented. He has served time for them. The verse “let him without sin cast the first stone!” I can’t cast a stone.
Rick (Group Moderator)
Thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to comment on Jim and Tammy’s house in Tega Cay and the related subjects thereto.
It appears that we’ve reached the end of any further useful discussion of this matter. For us to allow any further discussion of this matter at this time will only lead to finger pointing, name calling, etc. Things that we try to avoid around here.
Therefore, we are declaring a moratorium on further discussions of this matter at this time. Thank you for your understanding as well as for your continued participation in our group.
Smirk, here. Well, that was pretty sudden – until you read the following post which was actually supposed to be an email between the two moderators, Rick and Todd, but which Rick accidentally sent out to the entire board. Here it becomes apparent that “Roland” was freaking out behind the scenes but neither of the moderators were allowing his posts through.
I rejected another long winded message from Roland Waters on this subject, all trying to prove he was right. Rather than let the group get off onto a tangent about the Bakkers’ home, the gold plated water faucets, etc. I declared a moratorium on further discussing of this subject at this time. I think you’ll agree with me that we had to cut off the debate, or else risk people pointing fingers, calling names, etc.
Any questions, please let me know.
Smirk yet again. I’m not really a big fan of moderators cutting off discussion just because things start to get a little heated, but its not my board. I do wish they’d let Roland’s posts through – long-winded though it may be – I just have a feeling that they were crazy hilarious. I would have loved to hear more details about mannequins and fake food. But alas… it was not meant to be.
Edit: August 29, 2009 – Due to some comments on this entry by readers I further researched whether or not the house actually burned down. Wikipedia lists the house as having burned to the ground and that Jim Bakker wrote in his book “I Was Wrong” that he watched it burn on live television while incarcerated. Here is a link to that article. Also, here is probably the shortest New York Times article I have ever read. It concerns the Bakker house burning down. (Honestly, its a two sentence article. Great reporting!) Lastly, the book “Jim Bakker: Miscarriage of Justice” also specifically mentions the fire. So that, I suppose, settles that. It appears the house burned down in March of 1990 – there is nothing to visit. I’m not sure what house “Todd” in his initial post thought he was visiting, but unless he was recalling a visit nearly 20 years ago in a 2009 message board discussion and just failed to mention it – it wasn’t Jim and Tammy’s former home.