George Edward Bardeen, Sr., a native of Otsego, Michigan, USA, was a businessman and state-level politician. He owned and operated the Mac Sim Bar paper mill in Otsego, the Otsego Independents semi-professional baseball team, and was financially instrumental in the founding of Olivet College.
Bardeen and other investors started up the city of Otsego's first paper mill in 1887, reducing the availability of spring water and thus shutting down the town's Mineral Springs Bath House.
In 1900, Bardeen was the state's 4th District delegate to the Republican National Committee; attending the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia that year. In 1907, he served as a member of Michigan's Republican State Central Committee.
In 1901, Bardeen entered a venture to help start the Kalamazoo Stove Company. His partners in this venture were Edward Woodbury, son of the late Jeremiah P. Woodbury, Kalamazoo’s wealthiest 19th-century industrialist and banker; the Dewing brothers: William S., James, and Charles; and other prominent local businessmen. Taking advantage of the recently established Rural Free Delivery postal service that brought mail-order catalogs to rural homes, these investors sold their products directly to customers, without retail middlemen. The company slogan was "A Kalamazoo ~ Direct to You."
In 1902, Bardeen was among the first team owners in white baseball to allow African-American players to be integrated. He signed Negro League baseball pitching star Andrew Rube Foster, who had just been released from the Chicago Union Giants following a performance slump, to play for him that season.
The Bardeen Mansion
In 1895, Bardeen built a 3-story Victorian Mansion on M-89 Hwy which boasted eight fireplaces and even a full-sized bowling alley. The most amazing rumor about this home was that it had a tunnel that went under the Kalamazoo River all the way to his paper mill, about two miles away. That claim has not been substantiated.
The Bardeen Mansion was vacant during the 1950s and early 1960s. To local children, this was known as "the haunted mansion." For several years after the mansion was torn down, it was just a vacant lot. The only sign that there was once a building there was the original sidewalks leading to the front and side doors.
With the Mansion now gone, the only legacy Mr. Bardeen still has in the city is in the minds of those who remember the mansion, a stained-glass window bearing his name in the nave of the Otsego First Congregational Church, and a street named after him in the Ely Acres subdivision.
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