Miracle Mile no longer gives us heebie jeebies

Tucson’s Miracle Mile has seen its share of transformations – not all of them good.

Miracle Mile file photo/Ryn Gargulinski

Miracle Mile file photo/Ryn Gargulinski

What began as the showy gateway to Tucson and a prime stopping spot for families in the 1950s turned into an equally prime spot for drug dealers and prostitutes from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

But don’t let its past reputation deter you from checking out what it’s like today.

A facelift plan, Tucson’s Oracle Area Revitalization Project, went into play several years back. The fruits of this plan will be showcased in an upcoming historical tour and festival on April 24. More details from the news release appear below.

The strip has undergone one heck of a transformation.

While I never personally saw Miracle Mile as the hooker haven, I heard stories.

Those tales were reminiscent of Detroit’s Woodward Avenue or New York City’s Times Square before it was transformed to into its current – and boring – squeaky clean self.

Some Miracle Mile stories were told as few as two years ago, when an employee at the nearby Evergreen Cemetery said he still found syringes littering the lawn and once spotted a prostitute taking a shower in the cemetery fountain.

But things on the strip have gotten cleaner, better.

One major plus for the area was the bulldozing of the Tropicana Adult Video Theater in 2004.

Another was the opening of Tucson police’s spanking new Westside Service Center in 2007.

We’d say building a giant police station is a very good way to give ne’er do wells the hint to move on.

The Gateway Business Alliance kicked off in October 2008, comprised of business owners who are further helping Miracle Mile’s economic development.

Miracle Mile will always have its place in Tucson – and we’re glad people are working to preserve and revamp it, rather than mow down and trash it.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

One of the highlights is definitely the retro motels and signs. The one for the Ghost Ranch Lodge was even designed by the renown Tucson architect Josais Joesler boasting a logo by artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe is the reason I have dead skulls in my kitchen.

Golden Pin Lanes, with its $1 million makeover, is also one very fine bowling alley.

Upgrading Miracle Mile is the way to go, as long as the upgrades continue to preserve its history and kitschy charm. Too many notable Tucson homes, buildings or other structures around town have already been torn down or left to decay – or replaced by things like the abominable DeConcini U.S. Courthouse.

We’d even take a seedy Miracle Mile over that monstrous courthouse.

What: Historic Miracle Mile Tour and Festival – Motor Courts, Motor Cars & Memories Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 24
Where: Miracle Mile Strip: Miracle Mile-Oracle-Drachman area
A bevy of activities are planned for the daylong family-friendly event: Car buffs will enjoy a vintage and collectible classic car show. There will be tours of the vintage motor courts and memorabilia, live musical venues, folklorico dancing, paint-out competitions, a fine arts exhibit, local business vendor booths, food-tasting competitions, mariachis, Yaqui mask carving and other adult and children events.
Booths are still available for food vendors, artists and other individuals and organizations. Deadline is March 19. For info, visit www.CelebrateHistoricTucson.com.


Miracle Mile timeline

1930s: Miracle Mile Strip, which included some of what is now Oracle Road, was built as a northwest gateway into Tucson and hailed as the best road ever made.

1937: Miracle Mile gets high acclaim in Arizona Highways magazine. “There was nothing like it the Southwest,” the publication said. The strip had thriving businesses, mainly hotels, for the next three decades.

1960s: Interstate 10 completed, diverting travelers away from Miracle Mile and hurting businesses. The strip begins its decline.

1983: Massive police sweeps result in the arrest of 400 suspected prostitutes and 87 men for soliciting police decoys.

1986: Shootouts common, usually involving pimps over their real estate and human property.

Late 1980s: “Miracle Mile” name taken off sign south of cemetery because North Oracle Road businesses didn’t want the Miracle Mile reputation.

2002-2004: Miracle Mile found to be the most violent section of the city in Tucson Citizen analysis.

2004: Birth of the Oracle Project, a coalition of neighborhoods and businesses working to improve Oracle from Drachman to Miracle Mile.

March 2004: City condemns Tropicana Adult Video Theater because of building code violations. The building is torn down.

Sept. 2005: Miracle Mile repaved.

Fall 2007: Beginning of Oracle Area Revitalization Plan, an 18-month project to revitalize the area that includes Miracle Mile.

September 2007: Tucson Police Westside Service Center opens at 1310 W. Miracle Mile.

October 2007: La Paloma Family Services moves to 870 W. Miracle Mile.

January 2008: Police receive OK from City Council to buy six acres next to West Side station to build new crime lab.

May 2008: Golden Pin Lanes gets $1 million makeover.

Source: Tucson Citizen archives

wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Are you a fan of Miracle Mile?

Do you have any Miracle Mile stories to share?

What other areas in Tucson should be preserved for their kitschy charm?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
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18 Responses to Miracle Mile no longer gives us heebie jeebies

  1. azmouse says:

    I do like Miracle Mile because of its history and the old buildings and the signs are the best part. Like any of us, it’s definitely gone through some ‘rough patches’ and there was a time I would avoid the area at night.

    I’m trying to remember where ‘The Fine Line’ bar was…but I think that was Drachman. A great bar to people watch and see the coolest of the cool hairstlyes. And the clothes! Any crazy eighties look/outfit could be seen at that bar.

    • Rynski says:

      i like miracle mile, too – def because of the kitsch factor. but i’ve also seen the looks on some people’s face if you merely mention the name ‘miracle mile.’
      and i definitely do NOT like the highway entrances/exits or driving around that intersection that looks like an accident waiting to happen.
      must have been quite a place, that fine line bar – people watching is always fun – esp when they are decked out in cool hair and clothes (haha).

    • koreyk says:

      Drachman it was.

  2. radmax says:

    Like lipstick on a pig Rynski. This area has always been trouble. My dad and his buds on the TPD used to joke about it all the time.
    Seems to me I still hear about a hooker havin’ a miscarriage in a toilet or murder in this place a little to often for me to put up the welcome sign just yet…

    • Rynski says:

      hahhaha. well, it’s gotta retain SOME of its character.
      like i mentioned about times square – that place got TOO cleaned up – so clean it’s more like disneyland than midtown manhattan. things are boring and flat when they’re too pristine.

      • radmax says:

        They are erecting a new crime lab next to the police station. At least they won’t have to travel far to get to the specimens. 🙂

  3. Hoosier Woman says:

    I have lived most of my 43 year life in Tucson. I remember when there were so many prostitutes on Miracle Mile. It was easy for them to afford the many low priced motel rooms that were so close to the strip. I moved to Indiana in 2004 and I am wanting to move back to Tucson in a year to two years from now. Is it my imagination or was there really a motel on Miracle Mile named “No tell Motel”? LOL I dont know if it was true or not. But I dont know if I would want to live around Miracle Mile or not when I move back there. But I loved your news story.

    • Rynski says:

      hi hoosier woman,
      yes, “Notel Motel” is still kicking – or at least the sign is still up! i need a photo of that sign because i agree it’s too funny.
      thanks for reading and commenting. glad you enjoyed it. when you move back in a year or two, maybe miracle mile will be even cleaner? the police station helped a lot. that’s also a doozy of a building.

      • azmouse says:

        Hey, I’ve been to that Motel! It’s fabulous….

        Hey Hoosier Woman. We look forward to your return.

  4. Thom Dwan says:

    Another amazing makeover is the Wayward Wind’s Lodge by Gospel Rescue Mission as the new Women and Children’s  Center…good things are happening!

  5. Linds says:

    My lil sis used to be a “hooker” on MM!  Actually was a police decoy and she had some great stories.  Like the guy who offered her $5 and a couple of cold beers.  She was very insulted and glad to bust him.

  6. Hoosier Woman says:

    Thank you for the kind words. I think Miracle Mile gives a lot of people the heebie jeebies  because of the cemetery there. I have walked around in that cemetery at night and I was never more scared in my life! LOL
    Personally I think the Vista Sierra Apartment complex at 2002 E. Ft. Lowell Road is haunted! I lived in 3 different apartments there, over a 5 year period, in the 80’s. Apartment #214 upstairs by the pool is scary only in the back bedroom. I always got the feeling that a mean old (dead) lady was in there and that she hated me, so I used it as a storage room. Then apartment #111 downstairs on the west side has a dead old Indian man who seemed nice. He would only be seen in the 2 bedrooms and walking up and down the hallway, and he used to watch over my babies while they slept. He reminded me of the old commercials with the old Indian man crying a tear at seeing all the trash laying around…yeah he kinda looked like that. There were several times when I would sit on a picnic table by the pool at night and I could see shadow figures walking around the grounds, but you had to watch real hard for them. I would have to say that that apartment complex is the place that gave me the heebie jeebies. But I loved living there for the most part.

    • Rynski says:

      wow, hoosier lady.
      you mean you had all that fun and you STILL left tucson? hahah. i will definitely have to check out that apt. complex. i am fond of ghosts and all things haunted. thanks for tips.
      only went to the miracle mile area cemetery once to talk to worker. do need to go for a lengthier tour. i think there’s a guided tour coming up which i’ll be blogging about soon.

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