After 85 years in Jackson Ward, the Die Teufel Club’s time in the neighborhood may be nearing an end.
The longtime African-American social club’s building at 16 E. Marshall St. has been listed for sale with a $1.1 million asking price. Icon Commercial’s Robert Jones and Colby Kay have the listing.
Initially known as The Devil’s Club, the social club has been a gathering place for black men and women since 1937. Willie Lucas, the club’s treasurer and a member of its board of directors, said a group of black men founded the club at a time when they weren’t allowed at other social clubs because of their race.
“Segregation was going strong at that time, and all private clubs in Richmond came out around that time because people wanted a social club to go to,” Lucas said. “That’s how private clubs in the black community got started. At one point the Devil’s Club catered to the African-Americans as far as the bar scene because it was the only place they could go.”
Added Jones of Icon Commercial: “It really created a safe space for African-Americans in that time period to go in and socialize.”
Lucas said the name changed after some members went to fight in World War II in Germany, where they learned the German word for the devil, ‘Die Teufel.” Changing the name helped change a perception that the club was Satanic.
“‘The Devil’s Club’ wasn’t necessarily Satanic. It was just a nickname the guys had picked for the name of the club,” Lucas said.
The club has always been located in Jackson Ward but moved into its current home near the intersection of East Marshall and North First streets in 1972. It bought the 7,000-square-foot warehouse for $35,000 in 1969 and began renovating it.
In recent years, though, membership at the club has dwindled. Lucas, a member of 25 years, said they currently have 24 members. Its one-time high in the building was around 100.
“Over a period of time the members got older, and the social structure changed, so the club wasn’t as popular as it was in the past,” Lucas said.
“Young people don’t go into private clubs. They don’t see the private clubs the way we did back in the day. That being the case, we lost membership.”
Kay and Jones said the building was put on the market in late January, and prospective buyers have envisioned possible future uses, ranging from turning it into a mixed-use project with apartments above commercial space, to keeping it as a club.
Kay said one of the building’s unique features is that it has a full kitchen and bar on each of its two floors, opening the door for possible multiple restaurant users.
“You can do something like Edo’s Squid where they’re upstairs and there’s a restaurant downstairs,” Kay said, referencing the building at 411 N. Harrison St. near VCU.
The building sits on a 0.1-acre plot that’s zoned B-4 Central Business District, a designation that doesn’t have height restrictions. The city most recently assessed the land at $509,000.
Lucas acknowledged that the club won’t have a say once it’s sold, but said he’d love to see it be used in a way that would benefit the community.
“It could turn into a grocery store, deli, restaurant – something that the community needs in that area,” he said. “There are no grocery stores in that area. The closest one is probably a mile or so away.”
As for the club itself, Lucas said it’ll continue operating, most likely at a member’s residence. Until it sells, he said the club’s members will continue using the building.
“We’re still in there. That’s where we still gather and watch ball games and enjoy it,” Lucas said. “It’s almost like a landmark for clubs in Richmond. Anybody that’s over 70 years old has either been (at Die Teufel Club) or known about it. We’ve got some members who’ve been members for 65 years.”