Scaffolding surrounds the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library clock tower May 3, 2024, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Renovations will transform the tower into an astronomical clock, inspired by the Pražský orloj in the Czech Republic. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Renovations to the clock tower at the edge of Czech Village will be transformational for Cedar Rapids, officials said during a ground-breaking ceremony.

“This is, for the museum, a monumental day,” Cecilia Rokusek, president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, said at the event under sunny skies on Friday, May 3, 2024. “Today is for the future, a golden future.”

The $1.6 million transformation will turn the clock tower, installed in 1995 along the historic business district on 16th Avenue SW, into an “orloj” clock, modeled after the astronomical clock in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

The Astronomical clock, or Pražský orloj, in the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still in operation.

(photo/Cindy Hadish)

The museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Rokusek said the Buresh Immigration Tower, named in honor of Ernie Buresh, will represent the story of people who immigrated to the United States.

Twelve figurines — each almost 4 feet tall — will be added on two carousels on the clock tower to reflect immigrant stories, with a farmer, a coal miner, a meatpacker, and other sculptures representing those who came to the United States from Czech, Slovak, Moravian and other lands.

The figurines will rotate on the hour to the music of Czech composers Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana.

Buresh, who contributed $250,000 to the project before his death at age 95 in 2022, was represented at the ceremony by his daughter, Dr. Wendy Buresh. A banker, Buresh served in the U.S. Army and earned an agricultural engineering degree from Iowa State University in 1948.

Dr. Wendy Buresh, left, and Cecilia Rokusek are shown during the ground-breaking ceremony May 3, 2024, outside the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“His memory will live on in Cedar Rapids,” Rokusek said. “This is historic for Cedar Rapids. We want it to be a real destination place.”

The figurines are being crafted in Slovakia, with the fully digitized inner workings being built in the Czech Republic.

Neumann Monson Inc., with offices in Iowa City and Des Moines, is the project architect and Graham Construction of Cedar Rapids is the construction manager.

John Lang of Graham Construction said the project is scheduled to be completed by September.

“This will be a monument for others around the world,” Lang said to the crowd of Czech and Slovak dignitaries and museum supporters who gathered for the ceremony. “It’s a symbol of unity, democracy, immigration and freedom.”

Read more: Bridge closure won’t deter Houby Days Parade in Czech Village

See more photos of the clock tower and from the ground-breaking ceremony, below:

The clock tower is seen in April 2024, before renovations began. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The clock tower, at the entrance to Czech Village, is shown under construction in May 2024 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
A crowd gathers for the groundbreaking ceremony on May 3, 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Cecilia Rokusek speaks during the ceremony. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Museum supporters gather for the groundbreaking ceremony on May 3, 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Cedar Rapids City Council members and dignitaries dig in for the ceremonial groundbreaking for the clock tower project. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is seen behind the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
David Dostal, appointed Cedar Rapids police chief earlier this year, talks to attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Dignitaries don hard hats for the groundbreaking ceremony. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
A banner displays a rendering showing what the Buresh Immigration Tower will look like upon completion. (photo/Cindy Hadish)