Detroit Edison was organized in 1903 to build and operate electric plants in Detroit. The Willis Avenue station was the first steam power substation used by Detroit Edison for the production of steam heat. Three other plants serve the central heating district of Detroit.
When the plant first went on line in 1904, there were 3,000 feet (910 m) of mains in place, serving only 12 customers. During the summer of that year, an additional 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of mains were constructed, and the infrastructure was increased as the years went by. By the mid-1940s, there were 42 miles (68 km) of underground mains and serving approximately 1,650 customers. During that time, the Willis Avenue Plant was updated and altered numerous times to serve the heating needs of the community, especially between 1916-1927. The station continues to serve the Cass Farm Survey Area.
This station in located near the original location of an electric generating sub-station owned and operated by the Edison Illuminating Company. It began operation in 1886. Henry Ford began his career with the Edison Illuminating Company on September 25, 1891 assigned to this substation as a Steam Engineer, working the 6:00pm to 6:00am shift.