The northeast corner of Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street is part of an intersection known historically as Bedford Corners. Although the life of Bedford Corners tells a vivid story about the commercial fortunes of Central Brooklyn’s Black community, it is a subtle gentrification narrative in reverse. On this one corner, over time, we witness residential units, financial services and fine architectural features recde from view. Even a subway access point is lost.
Captured below are four images of what is now 1205 Fulton Street, as well as compelling interviews with archivists and eyewitnesses to this history. See the vantage point of each photo here.
1896: According to Megan Goins Diouf, a reference archivist at the Weeksville Historical Society, Bedford Corners sits on what was a former Native American trade route. By the early 1800s the intersection of Bedford and Fulton marked an important thoroughfare in the district of Bedford, which was part of the Town, and then City, of Brooklyn. Just two blocks to the south, on Atlantic Avenue, ran the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad which was acquired by the Long Island railroad in 1836. In the 1896 photo, you can see Bedford Station, a steam railroad which connected to the Long Island Railroad.
By 1896 the surrounding area was on the verge of transitioning from a predominately white working and middle-class community to what eventually would become a predominately Black neighborhood by the 1920s. Who owned the building in 1896 or how it was used is unknown other than the fact that the second and third stories were functional, unlike today.
1942: By 1942 the district of Bedford had combined with Stuyvesant Heights to become the predominantly Black and low-income area known as Bedford-Stuyvesant. It is unknown, however, how 1205 Fulton Street was used at the time. A 1957 Certificate of Occupancy confirms that 1205 Fulton Street featured a ground floor retail store front, but residential dwellings on the second and third floors as well. The residential floors were later vacated and remain shuttered to this day.
In 1936 construction was completed on the IND subway line under Fulton Street, thus facilitating the move of Black folks from Harlem to Bedford-Stuyvesant. In September of 1940, trolley transportation along Fulton Street had shifted to buses. In the 1942 photo you can see the young Fulton Street bus line, but also what is now a closed Bedford Avenue exit for the Nostrand Avenue stop on the IND line A train.
1996: By 1994, 1205 Fulton, long stripped of its 19th century detail and fineries, had become home to the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union (CBFCU), a community-owned cooperative that was the nation’s largest Black-led, neighborhood-based credit union. In response to chronic bank redlining and disinvestment, CBFCU was created by local residents to provide low-cost financial services and loans to its mostly low-income account holders from the surrounding Central Brooklyn area. Previously used as a branch of Manufacturers Hanover Trust Bank, Manufacturers donated the building to the CBFCU board of director as a way to gain Community Reinvestment Act credit. (Manufacturers Hanover had merged with Chemical Bank and was looking to consolidate its Bedford-Stuyvesant branch operations in Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza, two blocks east).
In 1998 the credit union, suffering loan losses and unable to sustain the costs of operating 1205 Fulton, moved to the opposite side of Fulton Street where it remained into the early 2000s before merging with Peoples Alliance Federal Credit Union. Bermuda Realty LLC obtained the deed to the property in 1999. [Full disclosure: Brooklyn Deep editor Mark Winston Griffith was a CBFCU co-founder and board chair).
2015: 1205 Fulton is now owned by Ryan & Nicole LLC, a private company that owns several properties throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is leased and occupied by Rent-A-Center, a Texas-based lease-to-own business that rents and sells home electronics and furniture. Rent-A-Center has almost 3000 retail location through the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico in mostly in low-income and working class markets, and has been accused by consumer advocates for predatory lending and sued for deceptive practices.