Dr. James Still’s historic office in Medford has been named one of New Jersey’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation New Jersey. The designation, one of ten such sites in the state for 2016, is designed to shine a spotlight on significant historical resources that are deteriorating do to neglect.
Dr. Still constructed his three-room office in 1855. It was 18 feet by 40 feet and one story high. It included a basement with a fireplace that he used to distill his herbal medicines. Dr. Still, 1812–1882, known as the “Black Doctor of the Pines,” travelled widely throughout central Burlington County treating patients and distributing remedies. Patients also visited his office for treatment as his practice grew.
In 2006 the state purchased the property and developed plans to restore it. However, funds were taken for Superstorm Sandy reconstruction and the office languished. Although the building is small it is significant because it is the first state-owned African-American historic site.
The Medford Historical Society took over the office site with a use permit in 2013, but lacked the funds to restore the building. The Society did, however, refurbish a farmhouse next door as an education center, where volunteers conduct school classes and adult programs.
Members of the Medford Historical Society’s Dr. Still sub-committee are planning a fundraising campaign, but that is a big task. To quote Preservation New Jersey, “…the lack of funding from the state is the principal culprit here.”
Although the voters of New Jersey overwhelmingly approved funds from the Corporate Business Tax in 2014 to preserve historic and natural sites, the governor and the legislature have failed to agree on enabling legislation. Meanwhile, Dr. James Still’s historic office continues to crumble while important opportunities are lost.