From its highly regulated structure, it appears that this town was founded at the end of the 13th century, most likely from nothing, on the grounds of a barren field. Its square, with its nearly even sides, includes buildings with very different styles. It has been deemed the most beautiful square north of the Alps, and is surrounded on all sides by arches, constructed in 1503 after a great fire destroyed the older, mostly wooden houses. The purpose of the arches was to provide shelter for trading stands, and to connect to the entrance of the mazhaus, as the large rooms on the ground floor were called. Other fires affected the square in 1768 and 1773, so that the façades were rebuilt in Historicist and Neo-Classical styles in the 19th century. At the centre of the square is a splendid plague column, erected to commemorate the plague of 1680. There is also a statue of Saint Nicholas, protector both of children and trade, and a fountain called “the fountain of time,” for the water’s movements are synchronous with the clock in the City Hall. Nový Jičín features the oldest hat factory in Europe, and one of the buildings in the square houses a museum dedicated to this history.