Chip Fudge makes his living in the claims and collections industry, but his true labor of love focuses on the restoration of historic buildings.
Founder and chairman of Claims Management Resources, Fudge began restoring some of Oklahoma City’s historically significant homes and buildings in 1986, shortly after the oil bust. At first, he and his wife focused on older homes in the Linwood, Crestwood, Paseo and Jefferson Park neighborhoods.
Aided by the federal government’s historic-preservation tax credit program, he transitioned to commercial buildings, including Kamp’s Grocery, 1310 N.W. 25th, and the Cameron office building at N.W. 29th Street and Classen Boulevard. Since then, he has added eight buildings along Film Row.
His efforts have earned him the 2013 Urban Pioneer Award, presented annually by the 16th Street Plaza District Association to city individuals who exemplify Oklahoma’s pioneering spirit with their leadership and urban revitalization efforts.
The award will be presented to Fudge in a ceremony on Thursday.
Kristen Vails, executive director of the association, said Fudge’s work has “infused life into areas that didn’t have much going on.”
He said such work gives him purpose beyond his daily routine.
“At the end of one of our preservation projects, I feel like I’ve made a real difference, something that’s tangible. I tell people I restore old buildings for fun and sometimes for profit,” he said. “Really, I see it as a labor of love and my legacy to my children and the community.”
At times, Fudge said, he wonders why he continues with such work, given the obstacles with every project.
“It must be like childbirth,” he said. “You forget about the pain and do it again.”
His most challenging restoration project was the second floor of the Film Exchange building, 700 W. Sheridan.
“The roof was caving in, and there was a large skylight that had to be redone as it was in the 1940s,” he said. “To bring that second floor back was critical.”
Today, the Film Exchange building houses five tenants, including Joey’s Pizzeria and the Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery.
Another crown-jewel project was the former Hart & Industrial Supply building, 726 W. Sheridan, which houses Fudge’s company headquarters and several other firms. That building and others along historic Film Row were part of the only undeveloped quadrant in downtown.