NEW ULM - The city lost a landmark building in the fire that destroyed The Bohemian Bed & Breakfast on Saturday, but moreso, it lost an energetic, enthusiastic woman supporter of the city's history, tourism and the creative arts.
Bobbi McCrea, owner of The Bohemian was remembered for her creative energy, said Darla Gebhard, research librarian for the Brown County Historical Society Museum.
"Bobbi was bubbly and energetic she loved New Ulm and she was an actor," said Gebhard.
This 1981 photo by Allan R. Gebhard of New Ulm shows the Reim House before it was converted to a bed and breakfast. It was the home of banker Victor, Sr. and Marie Reim for many years before being sold to Bobbi McCrea to become The Bohemian.
The Bohemian was built in 1899 by Amherst Bingham, a French-Canadian man who owned grain elevators and a lumber company in New Ulm. He and his wife Eva lived in the house.
According to Gebhard, the house was purchased by Marie Bremer's father, who bought it as a wedding gift to Marie and her new husband Victor Reim, Sr., an attorney in New Ulm. Marie lived in the house until she moved into an assisted living facility and it was sold to McCrea, said Gebhard.
McCrea was raised in New Ulm by her parents, Jim and Ruth McCrea. Her father worked for the post office. Within the past decade, Bobbi moved back to New Ulm, looking to find a historic house and make it into a bed &?breakfast.
"(The Reim house) was perfect to make into a bed and breakfast," said Gebhard, "It was a beautiful house."
McCrea and her husband (at the time), Mark Wood, renovated the Bohemian.
The Bohemian Bed & Breakfast was well-known for its stained glass windows, original woodwork and wallpapers, Anaglypta wall treatment and imported tile. McCrea served her German-inspired breakfasts with antique china, vintage linens and Bohemian crystal.
McCrea loved art and she loved history, said Gebhard. She served on the New Ulm Actors Community Theater Board, and most recently acted in a dinner-theater murder mystery at the Grand Kabaret.
Gebhard said that people will miss McCrea's drive to attract tourism to New Ulm.
"She always had ideas and she was making sure that New Ulm was known she was always attracting people to New Ulm," said Gebhard, "I'm going to miss her support for keeping New Ulm history alive."
Gebhard knew McCrea also through the Junior Pioneers of New Ulm and Vicinity organization. (The purpose of the Junior Pioneers is to "keep green the memory of the early pioneers who settled New Ulm and the vicinity; and to preserve as much as possible the usage's and customs, language and ideals of the early settlers...")
Gebhard also noted that McCrea was also known for her acting portrayal of Wanda Gag. She would often dress up as Wanda Gag and appear at functions at the Gag House and various other events.
She said McCrea was recently talking to her about her desire to put on a controversial play with the New Ulm Actors Community Theater (NUACT) called "Dogs in the Hot Moon."
A group from the Twin Cities performed the play around 1992 at Heritagefest in New Ulm.
"It was a riveting play," said Gebhard.
Gebhard said that even though the play may have been controversial McCrea thought that the women's voices in the play should be heard.
"She (McCrea) was a liberated woman," said Gebhard, "She was active she was a do-er.
McCrea also was talking about her ideas for the Lyric Theater (the local old McCleary auto parts store) when she came into the museum about a week ago to pick up some art she had loaned to the museum, Gebhard said.
"She made people feel welcome," said Gebhard, "She moved back to New Ulm and made New Ulm a better place. She helped put New Ulm on the map as a destination."
Gebhard said there were many, many times that McCrea would refer people staying with her at the B & B to her at the Brown County Historical Society.
"She was good at networking," said Gebhard said, "She gave people the whole New Ulm package."