HOOGE & THE CHATEAU GROUNDS
Along the Menin road in the 19th century, there were many châteaus, cottages and adjacent parks as countryhouses for the well-off families. The most appealing was undoubtedly Hooge! Before the Great War the château grounds were called 'la Hooge' and it was widely praised for its elegance and beauty. For centuries it had been a manor. The pre-war château was built in renaissance style with classicist elements. Together with the outbuildings it was 100 metres long. The park (36 hectares) was a delight to watch. There were magnificent lanes lined alternately with green and red beech. Behind the château rose an enormous oak tree whose trunk circumference measured 5.80 metres, allegedly the thickest stem in the province. There was a big pond in the middle of which was an island with a shed. The pond was fed with water from the blocked off Bellewaarde brook. Along the Menin Road were farms and family homes occupied by people who in one way or another were employed at 'the château', forming a community of its own.
During the four year lasting war, the town of Ypres in the heart of the salient, was obliterated. At the beginning of May 1915 the remaining inhabitants were forced to be evacuated. From then on no one lived in the ghost city. Early 1919 the first inhabitants returned to their city in ruins, and reluctantly started to rebuild it. The first years those who returned lived in wooden emergency barracks. Others remained in the country of refuge and started a new life over there, among them a lot of Flemish farmers.
Debris was cleared, and the front got 'cleaned'. Trenches, craters and holes were filled in. Equally so at Hooge. Of one of the most beautiful châteaus in the Ypres area nothing remained, and also the park had lost its original glory. The grounds had changed into an uneven landscape of mud in which no building, no tree or hedge could be spotted. In 1920 baron de Vinck started the rebuilding of a temporary cottage (now Hotel Hooge) where once the château stables stood, closer to the Menin Road. The idea was to build a new château where the original stood, but this came to nothing. He did however build a hamlet school (now theme café Hooge Crater) in 1920 to enable children of his personnel to go to school. He also had a barrack chapel built for the hamlet people which in 1927 was replaced by a stone building (now museum Hooge Crater). Just above the big rose window at the front you can notice the family de Vinck's coat of arms showing five birds (finches).