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Rhea County Courthouse, Dayton

The Rhea County Courthouse is a historic county courthouse in the center of Dayton, the county seat of Rhea County, Tennessee. Built in 1891, it is famous as the scene of the Scopes Trial of July 1925, in which teacher John T. Scopes faced charges for including Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in his public school lesson. The trial became a clash of titans between the lawyers William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense, and epitomizes the tension between fundamentalism and modernism in a wide range of aspects of American society. The courthouse, now also housing a museum devoted to the trial, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
The Rhea County Courthouse stands prominently in the center of Dayton, on the courthouse square bounded by 2nd and 3rd Avenues, Market Street, and Court Street. It is a three story brick building with Romanesque and Italianate features. It has a broad hip roof with a low hip-roofed tower at one corner of the main facade, and a taller square tower with an open octagonal belfry above a clock on the other. Some windows are set in round-arch openings. The building interior has many original features, including the main courtroom on the second floor, where the Scopes Monkey Trial took place.
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Rhea County Courthouse Reviews
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63 reviews
  • We toured the courthouse to see the Scopes Trial Museum. It brings out many details of the event. The courtroom was quite large. Apparently it was very packed during the trial. Information about the h...  more »
  • We were really impressed by the Scopes Trial Museum in the basement. Very well layed out, easy to navigate and informative. However, walking into the actual court room on the 2nd floor was awesome. We...  more »
  • Excellent place to visit for the Historical significance on many issues involving Church, State, Law, and Education Relationships. Recommended for all History Fans.
  • Very knowledgeable staff, happy to answer questions and share stories. Fascinating museum.

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