The Cloth Hall was one of the largest commercial buildings during the Middle Ages, when it served as the main market and warehouse for the Flemish city's prosperous cloth industry. The original structure, erected in the 13th century and completed in 1304, lay in ruins after artillery fire devastated Ypres in World War I. Aside from a brief period in October 1914, Ypres never fell into German hands. It did, however, suffer a heavy toll during its defense, where some 250,000 allied soldiers died. Between 1933 and 1967, the hall was meticulously reconstructed to its prewar condition, under the guidance of architects J. Coomans and P.A. Pauwels. At 125 meters in breadth, with a 70-meter-high belfry tower, the Cloth Hall recalls the importance and wealth of the medieval trade city. The Cloth Hall used to be accessible by boat via the Ieperlee waterway. The spacious ground-floor halls where wool and cloth were once sold are now used for exhibitions; the second floor, formerly a warehouse, now hosts the In Flanders Fields Museum, dedicated to the history of World War I.
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