For many years driving down Mid-Wilshire I would pass the signs saying Miracle Mile. I really had no clue what they were referring to. I thought perhaps it had to do with how impressive some of the architecture was.
I’ve since learned it was named the Miracle Mile because it was considered so improbable that part of Los Angeles would rise to prominence!
It’s history dates back to the 1920s when Wilshire Boulevard west of Western Avenue was an unpaved farm road. Developer A. W. Ross saw potential for a commercial development among the dairy farms and bean fields and developed Wilshire as a commercial district to rival downtown Los Angeles.
The development now called Miracle Mile is known for a number of “first” all aimed at developing the area around automobile traffic rather than pedestrian traffic as all the previous developments in the nation had been. The design was that all facets of the development should be oriented toward the automobile. It was the first development to put in dedicated left turn lanes (it is unfortunate more of Los Angeles didn’t have that foresight) and timed traffic signals. All merchants were required to provide automobile parking lots and building facades had to be designed to be best seen through the windshield of a car. The architectural requirements contributed to the form and development of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architecture.
Ross had invented the car oriented urban form and it proved an unprecedented success. Perhaps you have heard the expression “hundreds of suburbs in search of a city” in describing Los Angeles. The success of the new alternative commercial and shopping district negatively affected downtown real estate values and triggered development of the multiple downtowns which characterize contemporary Los Angeles.
The boundaries of the Miracle Mile are 3rd Street on the north, Highland Avenue on the east, San Vicente Boulevardon the south, and Fairfax Avenue on the west. Major thoroughfares include Wilshire and Olympic Boulevards, La Brea and Fairfax Avenues, and 6th Street. However, it is that stretch between Highland Ave and Fairfax Ave on Wilshire Blvd that is most known as the Miracle Mile.
Major landmarks on the Miracle Mile on Wilshire include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Urban Light Sculpture, the Petersen Automotive Museum, SAG-AFTRA, the El Rey Theatre, La Brea Tar Pits, Johnie’s Coffee Shop and the Craft & Folk Art Museum and TAG Gallery. At the border on the Northwest corner at 3rd and Fairfax is the world-famous Farmers Market, and The Grove.