Wednesday, March 04, 2020

It's A Miracle!

The Miracle Mile, early 1960s
We live very close to the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. People often refer to this stretch of Wilshire between La Brea and Fairfax as Mid-Wilshire. WRONG! Mid-Wilshire is the portion of Wilshire further east, near our beautiful, departed Ambassador Hotel and Bullocks-Wilshire Department Store, closer to Western Avenue. Mid-Wilshire is also referred to as KoreaTown. With changing demographics come changing location names.
I digress. Back to the Miracle Mile. I asked my Dad once why this stretch of Wilshire was called the Miracle Mile. He gave me his historical viewpoint that when he was a kid all of the major department stores were located in Downtown L.A. By the early 1930's, the city was expanding west and people didn't want to travel all the way downtown to go shopping, so development started along Wilshire Blvd. Mansions were torn down, open fields were built upon. Dad said that it all happened within a matter of a few was a MIRACLE of architecture and design! Also, developer of this stretch of Wilshire Blvd., A.W. Ross had a difficult time having Wilshire designated for commercial buildings. It was primarily farm land and agricultural. There were also many oil wells in this vicinity. Once Ross receiving the zoning permission for retail, he started drawing plans. At the time, Ross' vision was the subject of a lot of derision and teasing by his friends who told him basically that if his plan ever worked "it would be a miracle". It did work - beautifully. Hence the name "Miracle Mile."
To read up on the history of Wilshire Boulevard, check out this book. It's fantastic!
LA County Art Museum, 1965. Photo from LA Library Database
One of the greatest additions to the Miracle Mile was the building of the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), 1964 by William Pereira and Associates. When I was a tiny girl, we used to visit the Art Museum collection at the LA County Museum of Natural History located at Exposition Park, near USC. The art collection was hidden away, behind the dinosaur bones. Once our current Museum was built on Wilshire, the collection of modern art was added, modern sculptures were displayed, shows were mounted of avant garde artists! It was another miracle on Wilshire!
LACMA, under contruction, 1963, photo from L.A. Library Photo Database
Today, the beautiful modern architecture of the original LACMA complex is obscured by the Anderson Building. The new Broad Building also faces on Wilshire, between the Museum and the historic May Company Department Store, designed 1939 by Albert C. Martin and Samuel A. Marx. The Academy of Motion Pictures now occupies May Company and it will soon open for exhibition space and offices.
LACMA Campus, 2018
You can see in the photos above that there used to be this moat around the Museum. There were fountains and sculptures in the water. It was peaceful to just sit and look at the ripples. The moat also served as a sound barrier to the traffic on Wilshire while sitting in the Museum plaza. LACMA did need to expand to house it's growing art collection. I'm just sad that the original serene design has been altered.
We're due for more changes at LACMA, now that the original buildings are coming down. There is much discussion about the new design. Read about it HERE
The Miracle Mile has changed quite a lot since the early days. All of the big department stores and other clothing stores are gone. There are new businesses in many of the beautiful Art Deco buildings. I'm glad that many of the architecture from the 1930s still exists. I will still visit The Miracle Mile and remember what it was.

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