The Miracle Mile is located in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and consists of a roughly mile long stretch of Wilshire Blvd. between Fairfax Ave. and La Brea Ave. and the surrounding neighborhoods. The Miracle Mile District is bordered by the Fairfax District on the north, Hancock Park on the northeast, Mid-City on the southeast, West Pico on the south, and Carthay on the southwest.
In the early 1920s, Wilshire Boulevard west of Western Avenue was an unpaved farm road, running through dairy farms and bean fields. Visionary developer A.W. Ross saw potential for the area, however, and developed Wilshire as a commercial district to rival downtown Los Angeles.
Ross’s insight was that the form and scale of his Wilshire strip should attract and serve automobile traffic rather than pedestrian shoppers. He applied this insight to the street itself, and the buildings lining both sides. Ross gave Wilshire various ‘firsts’: dedicated left turn lanes, the first timed traffic lights in the US, and he required his merchants to provide private automobile parking lots, all to aid traffic flow. Major retailers such as Desmonds, Silverwood’s, May Co., Coulter’s, Mullen Bluett, and Seibu eventually spread across Wilshire Boulevard from Fairfax to La Brea. Ross required that all building facades along Wilshire be engineered to be best seen through a windshield. This meant larger, bolder, simpler signage; longer buildings in a larger scale oriented towards the boulevard; and architectural ornament and massing perceptible at 30 MPH (50 km/h) instead of at walking speed. These simplified building forms were driven by practical reasons but contributed to the stylistic language of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne. All of this was unprecedented, a huge success in commercial terms, and influential.
As newcomers and wealth poured into the fast-growing city, Ross’ parcel became one of the most desirable areas of the city. This stretch of Wilshire near the La Brea Tar Pits received the name of “Miracle Mile” for its improbable rise to prominence. After a slow period in the 80’s and 90’s, Miracle Mile’s importance as a retail and business center, returned thanks to the addition of several museums and the construction of several commercial high-rises. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and La Brea Tar Pits museums, among others, positioned “Museum Row” on the Miracle Mile as a serious cultural destination. Today, the district is one of the city’s most vibrant.
This return as an important commercial, residential and cultural hub for the city of Los Angeles and its environs continues with the huge expansion of LACMA and the complete updating of what was formerly the People’s Bank building. The increase in residential properties due to the commencement of several residential buildings demonstrates Miracle Mile’s continued importance and contribution to city living in Los Angeles.