ELKHART — One of the questions that has come into the “Ask the Truth” mailbox more than a few times is about a concrete block full of human teeth that you may have seen near an apartment building at the northwest corner of Riverside Drive and Lexington Avenue.
Those of you who have seen the block are well aware of what I’m talking about. In fact, if you’ve seen it once, it’s something you’ll never forget.
Inside the huge block of concrete are thousands of teeth of all shapes and sizes — molars, canines, incisors and more. Some are in decent shape; some are brown and decayed.
When we’ve been asked about the block of teeth before, the question is usually, “What’s the story behind this?” And for those who don’t know the story, I’ll answer that in a bit.
But more recently, The Truth has been asked, “Where did the block of teeth go?”
That’s right. What is without a doubt an odd local landmark of sorts can no longer be found at the corner of Riverside and Lexington. The fact that it has disappeared from that location was brought to the attention of The Truth and was also noted by members of the “I Grew Up in Elkhart, IN” Facebook group.
But where is it?
To be honest, I stumbled upon the concrete block by accident during a recent visit to the Time Was Museum on Main Street. The museum in downtown Elkhart is home to many things — old telephone directories, photos of buildings, various memorabilia from the city’s past…and now, a concrete block full of human teeth.
“Human teeth?” I wondered aloud when I was told about the block by Paul Thomas, the curator of the museum and unofficial city historian.
“Yeah, human teeth!” Thomas replied. “Dr. Stamp was an eccentric nut.”
The toothy block sat at the corner of Riverside and Lexington Avenue for more than 50 years, erected by Dr. Joseph Stamp, a dentist who worked in Elkhart from the early 1910s to the early 1970s.
In a previous interview, Stamp’s granddaughter, Susan Howard, said that thousands of teeth are encased in cement as a memorial to Stamp’s German shepherd named Prince.
As Thomas described the block, I was both grossed out and fascinated since I hadn’t yet seen the bizarre yard ornament.
“People kept just chiseling away at it because they thought there’d be gold in it,” Thomas said. “Doc Stamp wouldn’t put gold in there — I knew him well.”
Thomas said the condition of the block had become so bad that the owner of the land where it sat decided it was time to find another home for it.
“The stone was chipped and chipped and chipped, and finally the owner of the building wanted to get rid of it,” Thomas explained. “So I got it.”
Thomas took possession of the monument earlier this year and it sits in the garden area of the museum, nestled among a few other unusual items.
The block is on the side of the building at 125-A N. Main St. and is enclosed by a fence, so it can’t be viewed from the street.
However, if you want to check it out, give Thomas a call at 574-293-6005 to make an appointment. And while you’re at the museum, take a few minutes to check out the rest of what Thomas has collected over the years. If you’re a local history buff or if you just want to learn more about Elkhart’s heritage, I think you’ll enjoy the museum as much as I did.
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On another note, this is my first of what I hope will be many “Ask the Truth” columns to come. For those who are’t familiar with the column, we invite readers to pose a question about pretty much anything related to Elkhart County and I’ll do my best to find the answer. If you have a question about local landmarks, Elkhart history or anything else, fill out the form below or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.