- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Driving around the outskirts of downtown Oklahoma City looking for a suitable space for his new studio, automotive artist Charles Armstrong came upon a restored Depression-era gas station building at the and was immediately drawn to it.

“It looks kind of like an old garage, and it kind of has the same feel as my genre of art,” Armstrong told The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1xEv7T1 ).

Situated at the corner of Western and W Main, the building is a restored Deep Rock Oil Corp. gas station that was built about 1930. Armstrong is moving his automotive painting studio, called Auto Art, into the building. He also hopes to have a gallery in the front of the building, where he will sell his paintings, open by late spring or early summer 2015.

Armstrong uses airbrushing to paint everything from hot pink flames to detailed portraits and lifelike pinup girls onto cars, trucks and motorcycles. He is almost completely self-taught.

It proved a challenge for him to find out who owned the old service station building.

“I had to kind of do some work to find out who owned it - there was no sign, no phone number,” Armstrong said.

He discovered the address of Oklahoma City businessman and developer Chip Fudge’s office on Film Row by looking on the county assessor’s website. Fudge has owned the service station building since 2009.

When Armstrong went to Fudge’s office, he spotted one of the businessman’s vintage motorcycles that Fudge keeps at the building. Fudge collects cars and vintage motorcycles, and at one time, had as many as 32 bikes in his possession.

“I said to myself, ‘Hey, this is a car guy, maybe I have a shot,’” Armstrong said.

The building is one of the last remnants of the Tulsa based-company Deep Rock Oil Corp., which once had service stations across the state, as well as pipeline and refining facilities.

Kerr McGee purchased Deep Rock in 1955 for $17 million, according to historical newspaper articles. The deal included Deep Rock’s refining, pipeline and marketing operations, but most importantly, more than 800 service stations that spanned 16 states.

The purchase allowed Kerr McGee to become a fully integrated oil company with service stations across the Midwest.

All of Deep Rock’s service stations were eventually rebranded with the Kerr-McGee name, but somehow the building at Main and Western escaped this fate.

Fudge believes it may have been one of the first Deep Rock service stations in the state.

Fudge, who grew up in Oklahoma City, said he admired the old gas station building from afar for decades.

“It seems like my first recollection of the building was when I was probably 16 or 17 years old,” Fudge said.

“Oklahoma is a very young state - we’re only a little over 100 years old and most of our older buildings have not survived, so I believe it is very important to restore our old historic buildings.”

When the little brick service station building came up for sale in 2009, Fudge knew he wanted to own it.

“One of my passions was to buy and restore old buildings and try to put them back together,” Fudge said. “There was a ‘for sale’ sign in front, and I put in an offer and bought it immediately.”

The building had been used as storage for about five years before Fudge purchased it for $77,000, but it still was in good condition.

“It really wasn’t in too bad of shape,” Fudge said. “The stucco was cracked and falling, and the roof had a few leaks, but it was built in the ‘20s and very solid, so we didn’t have to do a lot to it.”

A friend of Fudge’s found a vintage Deep Rock service sign to hang outside the building, but it was stolen almost immediately.

Fudge said he is glad the old service station building will now have a tenant that is in keeping with the spirit of the building’s history.

“Charles is a world-class artist, and he paints motorcycles,” Fudge said. “I love motorcycles, and it’s an incredible opportunity to have him in there.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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