The land forming the Willis-Selden Historic District was originally the Park Lots, the Cass Farm, and the Jones/Crane Farm. These parcels were subdivided in the late 1800s. Due in part to the growth of Detroit during the 1860s and generous lot sizes, the Willis-Selden District became a popular area for development, particularly for the relatively wealthy professional class.
In the early twentieth century, the district became home to auto industry suppliers, once again due to its location and large lots. Forty-one percent of commercial buildings in the district built between 1910 and 1930 were auto-related. In addition, large, high-density apartments were constructed to meet the demands of the huge influx of auto workers into Detroit. However, the Great Depression had a marked impact on the industry and on the Willis-Selden Historic District, sending it into decline.