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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 31, 2006

 

Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Karen Hershey (609) 984-1795

 

DEP FUNDS IMPROVEMENTS TO NEW JERSEY'S FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORIC SITE

(06/63) TRENTON - Emphasizing the importance of preserving and maintaining New Jersey's historic landmarks, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced that the DEP will spend $150,000 to improve the historic homestead of the late Dr. James Still, a 19th century medical practitioner who was renowned for his botanical remedies.

The funding, included in the 2007 state budget Governor Jon S. Corzine signed in July, will enable the DEP to make structural improvements, repairs and enhancements to the Medford site. The 8-acre parcel, which was acquired by the state in February 2006, was at risk of being demolished to make way for a commercial development.

"I am pleased to announce that the Governor has granted us funding to repair and restore the first African-American state historic site," said Commissioner Jackson. "In November, voters will have an opportunity to support a measure that will provide a stable source of funding for continued repairs and improvements at this site and other historic landmarks around the state."

On Nov. 7, New Jersey voters will be asked to consider a constitutional amendment that would provide a dedicated source of funding - $15 million a year until 2015 and $32 million annually beginning in 2016 - for capital improvements at wildlife management areas, historic sites and state parks. Without requiring any new taxes, Public Question 2 would allow revenues already generated through the Corporate Business Tax Fund to be used for capital-improvement projects.

Voters' approval of Public Question 2 would guarantee a stable source of state funding every year for capital improvements at New Jersey's parks, historic sites and wildlife management areas.

DEP's Green Acres Program purchased the historic land and building for $875,000. In addition to the structural improvements and repairs, the funds will be used to restore the exterior and interior of the building so that it properly depicts the appearance of Dr. Still's office during the time he practiced medicine.

The son of slaves, Dr. James Still (1812-1882) was not a trained or licensed physician. At a time when most doctors relied on unproven medications, James Still was a distinguished herbalist--a seller of botanical remedies of his own devising, the superiority of which gained him a large clientele. Known as the "black doctor" of the pinelands, early New Jersey settlers came from miles around to be treated by Dr. Still. With only three months of traditional schooling, he was a self-taught doctor, using money he earned from working in a glue factory to buy books on medical botany.

Built in the 1850's, Dr. Still's office was a small unpretentious one-story frame building. Still's home and office are pictured in the 1876 Atlas of Burlington County. Although the office still stands, Still's Victorian house was demolished in 1932.

In addition to practicing medicine, Still was a highly accomplished writer. In 1877, he published his memoir entitled Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still. The book presents a first-person account of his childhood, medical practice and his personal insights. It is considered a classic piece of African-American non-fiction literature.

Dr. Still's son, James Still, Jr., the third African-American in the United States to graduate from Harvard Medical School, received his degree in 1871 with honors. Another son, Joseph Still, continued the legacy and although unlicensed, practiced medicine in Medford and later in Mount Holly.

To learn more about Ballot Question #2, visit www.njsos.org

 

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