Although the Miracle Mile earned its name from a period of rapid development, the top photograph reveals the much smaller scale of the district’s early growth. Up until the late 1920s, the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue was occupied by a nondescript Gilmore Oil service station. The brick-clad building facing La Brea Avenue in the left background housed an office and switching station for the Southern California Telephone Company, completed in 1925 to serve the city’s western neighborhoods.
Ultimately, the Miracle Mile’s growth spurt came on the heels of two major road projects completed in the summer of 1927: the paving of La Brea Avenue between Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Avenue, and the widening and repaving of Wilshire between Westlake Park and Fairfax Avenue. Almost immediately, both street segments became two of Los Angeles’ most heavily-used highways; By 1928, the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea had become the city’s third-busiest in terms of vehicle traffic.
The Gilmore Oil station was demolished in 1929 for the construction of the E. Clem Wilson Building, an office tower marketed to the growing professional class of the city’s west side. Designed by Myer & Holler, it was the first structure along Miracle Mile to be built to the city’s height limit, and has long remained one of the district’s most recognizable landmarks. The adjacent telephone exchange building was enlarged from three to five floors in 1942 and given a complementary Art Deco facade by architects John and Donald Parkinson. It continues to operate today under the ownership of AT&T.
The E. Clem Wilson Building in 1930 [USC Digital Library]
“Ground for new structure broken.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Sep. 1929. D2.
“La Brea auto count heavy.” Los Angeles Times. 24 Jun. 1928. G1.
“Paved traffic artery opened” Los Angeles Times. 1 May 1927. E3.
“Phone building to be enlarged.” Los Angeles Times. 27 Jul. 1941. E1.
“Three edificies in phone plans.” Los Angeles Times. 27 Aug. 1924. A1.
“Wilshire’s new pavement done.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Jul. 1927. G5.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “Gilmore station, northeast corner of La Brea Avenue & Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 1928 – DW~1928-85-143.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll170/id/23506/rec/3