From weathered to wonderful

Ħamrun’s main thoroughfare gets a much needed facelift.

A special restoration initiative is giving the houses along St Joseph High Street in Ħamrun a new lease on life, with the Planning Authority, Environment Ministry, and Ħamrun Local Council working together.

Launched in 2021, this unique scheme also extends to three other localities in Malta, specifically targeting roads within Urban Conservation Areas. Unlike previous programmes, this scheme covers all costs up to €10,000 per facade, requiring no financial contribution from the residents. It encompasses restoration work, application fees, permits, and architect fees, with the Planning Authority handling direct payments.

Ħamrun’s dual-purpose commercial and residential street is brimming with potential, showcasing numerous traditional balconies and buildings of remarkable architectural beauty. The Local Council is actively pursuing a regeneration plan for this area. Through collaborative efforts with government bodies, substantial progress is being made, although much remains to be done.

Already, about 50 facades are being revitalised under this scheme. The transformation is evident, as the restored facades and freshly painted balconies enhance the architectural charm and vibrancy of St Joseph High Street. Previously, the street faced neglect issues, including hazardous conditions from unmaintained balconies and falling debris, which marred its appearance and safety.

The introduction of this scheme has been a significant boon for the street’s residents, providing a more straightforward and accessible approach to restoration compared to past initiatives, which were less competitive and poorly understood. The Ħamrun Local Council has played a crucial role in facilitating the application process and overseeing the restoration efforts.

Complementary to the facade restoration is a project upgrading the sidewalks, services, and tarmac of the road. This project includes new traffic management solutions and more accessible pavements, with the final phase of installing street furniture currently in progress. These improvements not only enhance the local infrastructure but also create a fitting setting for the community’s vibrant events, such as the Carnival and Chocolate Festival, which draw thousands of visitors to Ħamrun, alongside other activities organised by local associations.

Ħamrun, or St Joseph’s?

Ħamrun originated from the territories of three neighboring parishes: Qormi, Birkirkara, and Floriana. Initially, its boundaries were more extensive, but parts of Ħamrun were later sectioned off to form the new parishes of Santa Venera and Marsa. The motto of Ħamrun is ‘Propera Augesco’, which translates to ‘Quickly I Grow’. This suburb took some time to establish itself but, once it did, it experienced rapid growth and development, eventually becoming known as Ħamrun as it is recognised today.

Historically, the area now known as Ħamrun was called ‘Casale San Giuseppe’ or St Joseph’s Village, named after the Church of St Joseph situated at the top of the main road, which still exists and bears the same name. Until 1888, the suburb was referred to as such. However, a dispute arose over its true name—whether it should be San Ġuzepp or Ħamrun, the latter being more commonly used by the locals. The government intervened and officially named it Il-Ħamrun for several reasons, primarily because the name San Ġuzepp was falling out of common usage.

There are two theories about the origin of the name ‘Ħamrun’. One theory suggests that the name derives from the word ‘ħamrija’, meaning  ‘soil’, referencing the red soil in the area, which evolved into ‘Ħamrun.’

Another popular theory is that ‘Ħamrun’ was a nickname of a local family living in the heart of Triq il-Kbira San Ġużepp. This family, still present in Ħamrun, was known by this nickname, which also belonged to a certain Ġamri Żammit, a tavern owner where the former Hollywood Theatre once stood.

Both origins are plausible, with ‘Ħamrija’ being recorded as the name of the place during the time of de Vilhena’s foundation, and ‘Ħamruni’ reflecting the local family’s nickname.

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