Karfule – Mumbai's Most Pristine Art Deco Petrol Pump

Karfule for car fuel

By Art Deco Mumbai

Karfule Archives

Archival photograph of Karfule (street view from north)Original Source: Karfule Archives

Karfule Petrol Pump opened on Sprott Road (SS Ram Gulam Marg) in Ballard Estate, then the city's premier business district, on October 3, 1938. Karfule was built by Gabriel Sequeira, an entrepreneurial Goan who migrated to the city in the 1920's and long harboured the dream of building his own business.

Archival photograph of Karfule, drawingsOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

Karfule was designed by Gajanan B Mhatre and Architectural Studio. Mhatre is remembered as 20th century Bombay's most prolific, if still under recognized, Deco architect.

Seen here are Mhatre's original, hand rendered drawings from the 1930's. These drawings along with other archival material and memorabilia, remain carefully preserved by the Sequeira family.

View of Karfule petrol pump, Mumbai (2020/2020)Original Source: Karfule Archives

Prominent Deco details carefully preserved by the Sequeira's include the structure's octagonal central kiosk, and its masterfully crafted cantilevered cement canopy, banded in blue. The vertical accent provided by the tower is also distinctly Deco. The original clock on the tower was later replaced by a Caltex sign. In 1978, when Hindustan Petroleum began supplying fuel to Karfule, the Caltex sign was also removed but remains with the family as part of the pump's historical archive of objects.

View of flooring in the office, Karfule Petrol Pump (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Inside is the original, one of a kind, star-shaped terrazzo flooring. This was poured in-situ and is beautifully maintained. In 2018, 80 years later, it shows little sign of any wear and tear. The star shape itself likely alludes to the star in the Caltex logo.

Ceiling of Karfule petrol pump, Mumbai (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Prominent exposed beams on the ceiling above serve as the structural supports to pump's iconic, cantilevered umbrella rooftop.

Service bays at Karfule petrol pump, Mumbai (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Note the Deco horizontal banding and arrow details on the pump garages, highlighted in contrasting shades of red and white paint, lovingly hand-made and restored by father and son duo, Kevin and Daniel.

Original ventilator and signage at Karfule petrol pump, Mumbai (2018/2018)Art Deco Mumbai

Much of the original Deco lettering survives as does a single original brass grill. The others are replacements, the original brass stolen during the 70's and 80's when Ballard Estate became a target for petty thieves attracted by its wealthy patrons and businesses.

Late Gabriel and Teresa SequeiraOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

The late Gabriel Sequeira is pictured here with his wife, Teresa. Until his death in 2001 at the age of 98, Gabriel remained an active part of the Karfule business, visiting the pump regularly.

Archival photograph of KarfuleOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

At the time, Karfule boasted of being the most 'up-to-date' of service station in the city. The pump's opening event was blessed by His Grace, Dr. Thomas D. Roberts, the Bishop of Bombay, seen here with Mr. Sequeira (right). Also present was Mr. Best (left), representative of Caltex, the California Texas Oil Company, which supplied fuel to the station.

The paper cut out of the Caltex dispenser and the car have been pasted on the original archival photograph.

Group photograph at Karfule's 80th birthday celebration (2018/2018)Art Deco Mumbai

Karfule, a delightful corruption of the words Car Fuel, remains a family business. Its everyday operations have been run by Gabriel's son, Kevin Sequeira (right, in a tie) since 1973. Gabriel's grandson, Daniel, recently joined his father in the business. They agree that their passion for cars and bikes comes straight from Gabriel.

The Sequeira family is pictured here during the pump's 80th anniversary celebrations.

Cake from the 80th birthday celebration of Karfule (2018/2018)Art Deco Mumbai

This modern living heritage completed its 80th anniversary on October 3, 2018.

Archival photograph of KarfuleOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

To celebrate Karfule's 80th anniversary, the family attempted to recreate the 1938 opening event, pictured here. On the guest list were several long time customers and friends of the family.

Menus at Karfule anniversary celebration (2018/2018)Art Deco Mumbai

The menu inspired by the original fare of small cakes, cheese straws and sausage rolls to offer guests a flavour of that opening day in 1938!

Archival document of Karfule, aerial visualisationOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

This aerial visualisation shows Karfule at a prominent site in the Ballard Estate business district, next door to the luxurious Grand Hotel, and close to the entrance to Alexandria Dock (now Indira Dock), the city's largest, most ambitious, dock built in the early 20th century.

Archival photograph of Karfule under constructionOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

This archival photograph shows the pump under construction in the 1938. Note the vertical steel members in the foreground, around which cement was poured to build the structure's foundation - a revolutionary departure from construction in stone. The image further highlights the highly skilled, hand-made, quality of Bombay Deco.

Archival document of Karfule issued by Simplex Concrete Works & Construction Co.Original Source: Karfule Archives

The Karfule archive includes original construction records such as this receipt from Simplex Concrete Works & Construction, detailing a fee of INR 5000 for the construction work carried out to build Karfule.

Archival document of Karfule issued by Architectural StudioOriginal Source: Karfule Archives

The family has the original payment certificate issued by architect G B Mhatre's firm, Architecture Studio, in its role as project manager to Mr Sequeira. Dated January 18, 1939, it details a total construction cost of INR 34,000

Karfule's 80th birthday celebration (2018/2018)Art Deco Mumbai

For car enthusiasts, Karfule also has a fully functional Manley hydraulic lift and an analog air gauge, from the 1930's. Next time you're in the neighbourhood, drive into Karfule and you just might have the pleasure of meeting one of the family as they fuel up your tank!

Credits: Story

Art Deco Mumbai showcases Mumbai’s Art Deco, advocates its conservation, chronicles its history, documents neighbourhoods and has created the only online repository dedicated to Mumbai’s Deco buildings. Photo Credits for archival drawings and photographs to Karfule Archive. All the remaining images are from Art Deco Mumbai’s archive.

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Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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