After 85 years in Jackson Ward, the Die Teufel Club’s stay in the neighborhood may be coming to an end.
The longtime African-American social club building at 16 E. Marshall St. has gone up for sale with an asking price of $1.1 million. Robert Jones and Colby Kay of Icon Commercial have the list.
Originally 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 board member, said a group of black men had founded the club at once. when they weren’t allowed in other social clubs because of their race.
“Segregation was strong in those days, and all the private clubs in Richmond came out at that time because people wanted a social club to go to,” Lucas said. “That’s how private black community clubs started. At one point, the Devil’s Club catered to African Americans all the way to the bar scene because that was the only place they could go.
Jones of Icon Commercial added, “It really created a safe space for African Americans of that period to come 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 the perception that the club was satanic.
“’The Devil’s Club’ was not necessarily satanic. It was just a nickname that the guys had chosen for the name of the club,” Lucas said.
The club has always been located in Jackson Ward, but moved to its current home near the intersection of East Marshall and North First streets in 1972. It purchased the 7,000 square foot warehouse for $35,000 in 1969 and started to renovate it.
In recent years, however, the membership of the club has declined. Lucas, a 25-year-old member, said they currently have 24 members. His single record in the building was around 100.
“Over time, the members got older and the social structure changed, so the club wasn’t as popular as it used to be,” Lucas said.
“Young people don’t go to private clubs. They don’t see private clubs like we did back then. However, we lost our membership.
Kay and Jones said the building went on the market in late January and potential buyers considered possible future uses, ranging from its transformation into a mixed-use project with apartments above commercial space to its retention as a club.
Kay said one of the unique features of the building is that it has a full kitchen and bar on each of its two floors, opening the door to potential multiple restaurant users.
“You can do something like Edo’s Squid where they’re upstairs and there’s a restaurant downstairs,” Kay said, referring to the building at 411 N. Harrison St. near VCU.
The building sits on a 0.1 acre lot that is zoned B-4 Central Business District, a designation that has no height restrictions. The city recently appraised the land at $509,000.
Lucas acknowledged the club will have no say once he is sold, but said he would like to see him used in a way that benefits the community.
“It could become a deli, a deli, a restaurant — something the community needs in this area,” he said. “There are no grocery stores in this neighborhood. The closest is probably about a mile away.
As for the club itself, Lucas said it would continue to operate, most likely in a member’s residence. Until it is sold, he said club members will continue to use the building.
“We are still in there. This is where we still gather and watch the ball games and enjoy it,” Lucas said. “It’s almost like a landmark for the clubs in Richmond. Anyone over 70 has been (at the Die Teufel Club) or heard of it. We have members who have been members for 65 years.