A stone block silently bares its teeth at passersby beside a road in west Elkhart.
For this week’s edition of Ask The Truth
, the community selected this anonymously submitted question by Amber Wolfe and Wendy Matz: “At the corner of Riverside Drive and Lexington Avenue in Elkhart, there is 3-foot high block of cement. It looks normal until you look closely and see it is filled with human teeth...what's the story behind this?”
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The concrete block stands in a yard at the northwest corner of Riverside Drive and Lexington Avenue. It’s hard to make out the teeth from the sidewalk. But take a closer look into the cracks that run along its face, and you’ll find dozens of them — from the roots to the crowns — piercing through the stone.
Molars, canines and incisors — some chalky and others browning — cut through the chipped concrete.
There are years of pulled teeth in the stone.
After posting a picture of the concrete block on social media, Elkhart residents shared their childhood memories of it. Some remember playing on top of the block, picking teeth out of the concrete and scaring other children with them.
Others would wait for the dentist who worked at the corner to lay the next batch of teeth and concrete onto the block.
His name was Dr. Joseph Stamp, said Paul Thomas, Time Was Museum curator. Stamp worked as a dentist from the early ’10s to the early ’70s and died in 1978 at the age of 88.
Stamp first shaped the stone block in the ’40s or ’50s, Thomas said.
It was a memorial to Stamp’s childhood dog — a German Shepherd named Prince — according to his granddaughter, Susan Howard.
“(The dog) was something that he had in his younger life that meant a lot to him,” Howard said. “And he did like animals. He did have several dogs that I can remember.”
Neither Howard nor her three older brothers could say why Stamp filled the monument with teeth, but she said it probably saved him on concrete.
He pulled thousands of teeth as a dentist and kept all of them, Howard said. Stamp collected the teeth in a barrel in his office’s basement and preserved them with chemicals, though Howard couldn’t say what he used. All she knew was that the substance kept the teeth from smelling.
“He was a very resourceful person,” Howard said. “If he had something on hand and he was building something, he would try to find a way to use it.”
Stamp also pulled gold teeth, though Howard said he kept those in a different container.
There have been people who chipped through the stone block in search of these gold teeth, but they were never put in it, Thomas said.
Thomas grew up near the intersection and remembers Stamp as being “eccentric as get out.” He said Stamp encased the teeth in concrete just because he could.
“It was just Joe,” Thomas said. “There was no rhyme or reason.”