Many Indianapolis businesses suffered or collapsed during the economic panic of 1873, including James Woodruff. He was forced into bankruptcy and was unable to finish the construction of his home. A few years later, in 1876, however, a handful of investors were able to complete Woodruff's vision, and Woodruff Place was incorporated as a small town. After a period of slow growth, the neighborhood went through a boom in the 1890s.
Woodruff Place consists of a variety of architectural styles, with many of the most historically significant homes built between 1875 and 1917 in the Victorian style. There are also Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, English Tudor, American Foursquare, and Bungalow homes in the district.
The neighborhood experienced a period of decline during World War I and the Great Depression, when many of the grand old homes were divided into apartments to supplement their owners' incomes. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, a renewed interest in preservation brought new attention to Woodruff Place.
Woodruff Place was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.