The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Czech/Slovak museum board wants ‘Bridge of Lions’ renamed ‘The Vaclav Havel Bridge of Lions’

In City Hall, Mayor Kay Halloran on May 15, 2008 at 6:26 pm

The board of directors and staff of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library are asking City Hall to rename the 16th Avenue bridge, now known as the “Bridge of Lions,” as “The Vaclav Havel Bridge of Lions.”

The 16th Avenue bridge over the Cedar River, of course, connects two early neighborhoods that were home to Czech immigrants coming to Cedar Rapids. Today, Czech Village is on the west side of the bridge and what had been the earliest Czech neighborhood is on the east side adjacent to the former meatpacking plant where many of the immigrants first worked.

And, of course, Havel, a playwright and essayist and advocate for human rights and freedom, is widely known for being popularly elected president in 1989 of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic after the non-violent Velvet Revolution brought down the communist government there.

Havel then became the first president of the Czech Republic in 1992 when the Czechs and Slovaks established separate republics. He continued in the role as president of the Czech Republic until 2003.

Havel came to Cedar Rapids in 1995 to dedicate the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library along with then-President Bill Clinton and Michal Kovac, then president of the Slovak Republic.

In a letter to Mayor Kay Halloran and the City Council, Richard Mitvalsky, one of the museum/library’s directors, said renaming the 16th Avenue bridge for Havel would pay tribute to his “lifelong Czech patriotism, commitment to the many causes of human rights and as a standard-bearer for democratic thought as both a writer and major political figure.”

The bridge renaming, too, would add “a distinct dimension to the overall cultural character of our Czech neighborhood,” Mitvalsky says in his letter to City Hall.

He notes that the city in recent years has named the 12th Avenue bridge, just upriver and near the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  1. I can see it now, the City Council spending 200,000 on a study to rename the bridge. I think the bridge should be renamed but let’s do without the study.

  2. So did they rename it, yet?

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