Early this month, the township agreed to coordinate efforts by the state, Still's descendants, and the Medford Historical Society to restore his office and gardens, and make a visitor center of the vacant farmhouse next door.
This self-educated son of slaves won the esteem of white and black residents alike. He died in 1882 as one of South Jersey's wealthiest landowners.
"James Still embodied the achievement of the American dream before there was such a concept," a team of historical architects wrote in a 2009 site study for the DEP.
"This was his pride and joy," Valerie Still, a great-great-granddaughter, said during a tour of the grounds this week.
A former basketball player for the University of Kentucky and the WNBA's Washington Mystics who grew up in Camden, Valerie Still was living in Ohio in 2005 when she traveled east to join family for Thanksgiving.
She decided to visit the old place and, to her delight, discovered a "for sale" sign outside. "I figured I could get it for a few thousand dollars," she recalled with a laugh.
But this was Medford.
"You got $875,000?" the real estate agent asked.
Zoned "community-commercial," the nine-acre property was in the sights of a developer eager to raze the house and build a strip mall.
Frantic, Still and her family turned to the DEP, which maintains many of the state's historic properties, and pleaded for its preservation.
Three months later, the Division of Parks and Forestry paid $1.2 million in Green Acres funds to acquire the Still house and property, along with the adjacent 10-acre farm, barn, and house owned by LeRoy Bunning.
Six years later, however, Still's long-vacant office is still cloaked in faded aluminum siding. Bare wooden steps rise to the chipped concrete porch where curious visitors encounter the "no trespassing" signs.
But there is also evidence of recent progress. On Martin Luther King's Birthday, 80 volunteers cleared brush around the house and adjacent field. Among the historical finds was a yoke and harness thought to have been used on a mule.
"We have a three-phase plan," the historical society's Janet Carlson Giardina said last week.
"We want to shore up the office and make sure it's secure. Then we want to turn the Bunning property" with its farmhouse and barn "into an education center for visitors and school groups" that would include gardens displaying the kinds of herbs Still used.
"And then we want to restore the house to make it as historically accurate as possible."
Because the Still house is a designated historical landmark, Carlson Giardina said, its restoration is expected to take much longer and cost more than the Bunning property. Estimates range between $500,000 and $1 million.
Born 1812 in the Indian Mills section of Shamong Township, Still had only three months of formal education but taught himself to read and write. At 26, "wholly undone" by the death of his wife, Angelina, he paid $1 for a book on medical botany.
Thrilled, he bought a second book "giving instructions for making pills, powders, tinctures, salves, and liniments," which he first made for his family.
His reputation spread, and in 1845, he built his single-story office on Church Road with a $100 loan.
"I never undertook a case without looking to Providence to guide me in it," Still wrote in his 1877 autobiography, "and I truly think he did."
Valerie Still, who said she hopes to serve as curator of the office when it opens, has founded the nonprofit Dr. James Still House Restoration Trust and applied for federal tax-exempt status. "We already have people around the country telling me they want to help," she said.
Although the trust will work with the tax-exempt historical society, "we will focus solely on raising funds for the office," said Still, now a sports trainer who lives in Palmyra. On Saturday, she will be keynote speaker at a historical society symposium about her great-great-grandfather's legacy and the restoration effort.
The symposium, which will include four other speakers, begins at 9 a.m. at Medford Leas on Route 70.
"Everybody realizes it's a part of Medford history," Beth Portocalis, township director of recreation, said last week. "It's also got potential as a tourist and education attraction. So it's good for the town."
Contact David O'Reilly at 856-829-8282, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @doreillyinq on Twitter.