Two current residents remember the building of Medford Leas more than 40 years ago. Beth Bogie’s March 2013 article in Medford Leas Life recapped that history.
GROWTH OF MEDFORD LEAS: THE BUILDINGS THAT JACK AND ED BUILT
Ed McVaugh and his sister-in-law, Isabelle McVaugh, sat down with me recently to share their recollections of early building at Medford Leas. Ed’s younger brother, Jack, who was joint owner with Ed of McVaugh Construction Co., of Riverton, NJ, eventually became its president. Jack died in 2009. His obituary noted that “construction of Medford Leas was one of his proudest achievements.” (Medford Leas Life, March 2009)
“It was one of the biggest jobs we ever did,” Ed recalled.
Ed started McVaugh Construction with his father in 1950, while Jack was in college. The company built the occasional residence but specialized in construction of industrial buildings. Over the years Ed did the office work, putting out bids, doing the estimates and scheduling, while Jack supervised the construction.
In 1970, Lew Barton, Tak Moriuchi and Tom DeCou, who were the Building Committee on the Estaugh Board, approached Jack about building the first Courtyard Apartments – the first buildings at Medford Leas. While Lew was occupied with the landscape, Tak and Tom visited the construction sites every day. “Jack loved working with
them,” Isabelle recalls. “They were so congenial.” In the early planning, Lew, Tak and Tom had traveled to California to look at retirement communities, and they brought back the idea for the courtyard design.
From 1971 to June 1972, Courtyard 1 became Medford Leas’ headquarters. The Estaugh Office moved in from Cherry Hill; Executive Director Bill Martin worked in Apartment 5. Gladys Fleming, the first resident, moved into Apartment 1 on March 2, 1971, and was the sole resident for two weeks.
Things picked up quickly. “We did not build the Community Building,” Ed said. “The Courtyard Apartments were selling faster than we could build them. We had 60 men working on them. Instead, we recommended Prince Concrete in Camden to build the Community Building.”
While Estaugh and Haddon were going up, Jack and Ed also were building Courtyards 19 through 41, which were finished in 1974. Because apartments were filling fast, more dining space was required, so the McVaughs added the Garden Dining Room and the Swimming Pool directly below it.
Over the years, the McVaughs subcontracted such specialties as painting, plumbing, electrical work and building of roads, while retaining oversight responsibility for the work. Ed could not recall any problems. “The Medford Leas people were excellent to work with,” he said.
In the early ’80s, work began on Rushmore. Isabelle remembered that John Martin, the architect, died while construction was underway. And Jack had open-heart surgery, so Jay “really built Rushmore,” she said. Jack officially retired in l984, the year Rushmore was completed, but he remained active. Ed had retired 10 years before.
In 1986, when Jay was running the company, McVaugh Construction built another piece of the Community Building – the new Theater. In 1988, Jay also built the Nature Center and Courts 65 and 66.
As with so many other aspects of Medford Leas, its construction, over 18 years, was a family affair.