Willis Avenue Station

The Willis Avenue Station is a steam heat production plant used in Detroit's district steam heating system. The plant is located at 50 W. Willis, near Woodward, in the center of the city's Midtown Detroit neighborhood. Built and owned by the Detroit Edison Company, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.


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.

Henry Ford

This station in located near the original location of a 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 25th, 1891 assigned to this substation as a Steam Engineer, working the 6:00pm to 6:00am shift. {cN}

Building Activity

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  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference and added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com