The Brisbane German Club

The Brisbane German Club, 416 Vulture Street, East Brisbane

Wherever in the world migrants settle, they usually have a strong desire to have some reminders of their homeland and mix with others of the same nation. This is especially true of non-English-speaking settlers. That’s how national cultural or sporting clubs start.

The Brisbane German Club in East Brisbane has been a cultural institution in Brisbane for both Germans and Australians for many years. It is generally known for its convivial atmosphere, great selection of beers, excellent authentic food (pork knuckle, Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, Kasseler, Leberkäse etc.) and, of course, the original Oktoberfest. But how did it all begin?

German migration to Queensland started in the mid 1800s and Germans were the largest non-British ethnic group until ca.1914.

On 27 May 1883 a group of forty German men decided to make their dream of a German Club a reality. Four years later, on 24 May 1887 the first Club house was opened in Manning Street, South Brisbane, called Deutscher Turn Verein (German Athletic Club).

The first clubhouse in Manning Street in 1887. (photo supplied)

It soon became very popular and many subgroups were formed to cater for diverse interests such as a choir, bowling team, theatrical group and library.

The second clubhouse in Vulture Street in 1890. (photo supplied)

All went well until a fire on 15 February 1889 completely destroyed the building. Undeterred, members decided to start again. They bought a larger block of land in Vulture Street and built a new club house with funds provided by the German Consul. This second clubhouse was opened on 24 May 1890. It became the centre for promoting German culture, language and music.

The German Club  (Deutscher Turnverein) ca. 1910.

Bad luck struck again in 1932 when the building had to be demolished as an infestation of white ants had made it unsafe. On 17 June 1933 the foundation stone for the third building was laid and the new building, including a dance hall and skittle alley, was opened in September 1934. The club continued to be a popular social venue for Germans and locals and activities extended to dances, musical performances and formation of more sporting subgroups.

During both World Wars the German community volunteered to close the club and made it available to the Red Cross and as a military training school for the A.I.F. It opened again a few years after the end WWII.

Post-War the club again became a popular social venue with regular weekly dances, more subgroups and member excursions. In 1955 the club building was extended, a beer garden built and extensive renovations carried out to cope with the increasing number of visitors and wide range of club activities. The annual Oktoberfest celebrations were introduced in 1973. Today the club has 400 full members and many hundreds of social members.

(source: based on information supplied by Monika Kortz, President, German Club)

Construction of a railway turntable in Main Street, Woolloongabba showing the German Club in the background.