In the late 1920s, the Miracle Mile represented the best hope for the new metropolis of Los Angeles. A string of shops ranging from the glamorous to the friendly, anchored by department stores, filled a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard. Ambitious merchants threw up towers against the flat Los Angeles landscape and welcomed both the car and the pedestrian shopper.
The city here had a clear structure: linear and automobile oriented. As Los Angeles expanded along the lines of its great boulevards, so did linear shopping districts like the Miracle Mile. The Desmond's Building, finished in 1929, remains the most expressive monument to this fleeting moment of urbane consumerism.
Both the 11-story tower and the curved, two-story base from which it rises had a specific function. The tower served as a kind of billboard, a signal to those driving along the boulevard that this was where they could find the Desmond's store, and the base attracted shoppers walking along the Miracle Mile. Desmond's was scaled to both the automotive city and the pedestrian.
The actual architecture of Desmond's translated that dual function into an almost seamless composition. The solid base looked as if it had been pulled open to reveal a world of plate glass, granite and brass luxury. The streamlined storefront rose up at the corners into bands of curved windows that announced the store to the cars zipping by. The rest of the building gathered itself up into layered piers that rose up in two setbacks to an exuberant crown. Up close and from a distance, Desmond's sold itself and seduced you inside, where elaborate carved flowers and animals swirled up above the entrance to support a ceiling sporting a 14-karat gold mural.