History Phoenicia Malta

Phoenicia Malta

The Phoenicia in La Valetta, the charming capital of the European island Malta, is the legendary rock in the stormy sea. Built before World War 2 and totally destroyed during that war, it withstood all troublesome tests of time. Image Still privately owned and managed, the hotel welcomed among all dignitaries also the Royal family, with HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Let us tell you about the history of this Maltese Hotel. HISTORY IN BRIEF: Project to build the Hotel Phoenicia was initiated in 1935 by Lady Strickland (architect Lt.-Col. W. B. Binnie). Destroyed in World War 2. Most of the hotel was opened in November 1947, and completed in April 1948; _____________________ HISTORY IN DETAIL The hotel is located right on the edge of Valletta’s walls, and partly sits on some of the fortification system outer works. This location gave the hotel its shape and also contributed to the general organisation of the grounds, with its elongated shape that stretches from Valletta’s main gate to the sea shore. The project to build the Hotel Phoenicia was initiated in 1935 by Lady Strickland, who, in 1936, called the architect Lt.-Col. W. B. Binnie* to study the conditions and design the hotel. At a time when travel between Malta and London took 60 hours, the Phoenicia was to be the only hotel on the island and was intended for a cosmopolitan clientèle but was also to provide accommodation for the wives of the officers of the Mediterranean Fleet. Upon approval of the plans by the Government of Malta, works started on the building, and most of the structural work was completed by the outbreak of the war. However works had to be suspended and the finished portion requisitioned by the Services. The site was heavily bombed during an air raid on April 27, 1942, with an estimated 100 bombs dropped on the building and gardens. The area situated around the Pegasus Bar was particularly affected by the bombings and had to be reconstructed after the war. In 1944, Binnie was requested by the Governor to proceed to Malta and begin the reconstruction of the premises. Despite having to compose with the difficulty in obtaining materials and fittings, most of the hotel was opened in November 1947, and completed in April 1948; by then, Malta was only six and a half hours away form London, by plane. Architecturally, the plan follows the (original) site boundaries, giving the building its particular “chevron” shape. One major design consideration for Binnie was to embody the spirit of Malta in the design of the hotel. To that effect numerous references to Malta’s monumental heritage were made. Thus the building was constructed in Maltese limestone also using a mortar mix composed of crushed limestone and lime, and ‘all inside walls were brought to a smooth finish so that no plaster work was necessary”. Similarly, the heavy coffered ceiling in the Main Entrance Hall is reminiscent of local Maltese architecture. Other materials included terrazzo and marble, as well as teak, for the floors. Various types and colours of marbles were used throughout the hotel. Finally, ironwork was extensively used for the balcony railings, staircase railings, chandeliers, gates, etc., with different finishes such as paint, enamel, or even crystal drops for the chandeliers. On the ground floor, the hotel accommodation included an entrance hall, a central open-air palm court surrounded by a continuous corridor, a dining room, a non-resident snack-bar, a cocktail bar, a winter lounge, and a kitchen that extends the length of the building on the North side. For entertainment, a ballroom was located on the garden side, and an open-air dance floor was also included. The hotel had, at the time of opening, 108 rooms and 8 suites. Proof of its high standard of service, the hotel was entirely air-conditioned and electric paneled radiators provided heating. The hotel also had its own electricity plant. The hotel underwent some modifications in the late 60’s including the covering of the courtyard and later on in the 90’s the addition of a floor. Various schemes that were carried over but of which nothing remains today, included the construction of an open-air theatre, and the construction of a pool closer to the hotel. The site under the management of the hotel was extended in successive phases to today’s size. _________________________________________________________ * William Bryce Binnie (born 1885 or 1886) was a Scottish born architect. He studied at the Glasgow school of Art from 1908 to 1910 and obtained a Gold medal and travelling scholarship in the latter year, which enabled him to spend approximately a year in Italy. Upon his return he went to New York to work as a designer in the office of Warren & Wetmore, where he was responsible for the detailing of Grand Central Station and was supervising architect for the Baltimore Hotel. He returned to Britain in 1913 to work as chief draughtsman for Leonard Martin, London. After serving in the armed forces during the First World War, he was appointed in 1919 Deputy Director of Works for the Imperial War Graves Commission, supervising the erection of war cemeteries and memorials in France, Belgium and Germany. He remained based in Saint-Omer, France, until at least 1925, when he was admitted FRIBA. He was described by his proposers as “an architect of great ability” who would “do great things in the future”. Upon his return in Britain he formed “an association” in 1927 with the London architect Claude Waterlow Ferrier. Ferrier was a Scottish architect himself who had a preference for the Art Deco style. Together, Ferrier and Binnie undertook numerous commissions in London, including the Extension to the National Temperance Hospital (now part of University College Hospital), the Headquarters of the Mother’s Union, the West Stand of Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium (1932), and several hotels and townhouses in London. Ferrier died in a circulation accident in 1935. Binnie continued the practice and realised several works under his name, two of which include the East Stand of Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium (1936) and the Hotel Phoenicia in Malta (1 936-1 948). Sources: Dictionary of Scottish Architects, William Biyce Binnie, 2006; Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Claude Waterloo Ferrier, 2006; Purcell, Miller, Tritton, Draft. A Conseivation Plan for Highbury Stadium, London, 2005
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Phoenicia Malta
Country: Malta
City: Valletta
Opening date: 1939 built (1947 opened)

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General Manager Charles Azzopardi


The Mall - Floriana
VLT 16 Malta, Valletta

Tel: +356 2122 5241
Fax: +356 2123 5254

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